The online news portal of TV5
SAINT PETERSBURG - Russian activists on Saturday called for a criminal investigation after young children were dressed up as statues to adorn a glittering party thrown by the Saint Petersburg governor.
The four girls were made up with silver costumes and face paint and apparently fixed to the corners of an installation resembling a silver lake at Governor Georgy Poltavchenko's reception honoring guests at the annual Saint Petersburg Economic Forum, Russia's biggest economic get-together.
The liberal-leaning governor of the northern Kirov region, Nikita Belykh, sparked concern by posting pictures of the children online, their silver costumes exposed to the full heat of the summer sun.
"In Petersburg this is how they torment children," he wrote on Twitter. "Where is @RFdeti?" he asked, referring to the Twitter name of the Kremlin's envoy on children's rights, Pavel Astakhov.
The reception was given at the historic Peter and Paul Fortress on the Neva River.
The children were meant to resemble gods but the Interfax news agency said some guests found the spectacle so horrific they pulled the youngsters out of the silver installation.
"This creates a horrendous impression. I have no idea what this lordly entertainment is for," the veteran Russian rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina told Interfax.
"Society should discuss this and the authorities should say that this is unacceptable, all the more so with children. It is possible this is a cause for a criminal enquiry," she said.
However the Saint Petersburg governor's office denied any responsibility for the treatment of the children, saying the organization of the reception had been outsourced to a third party which won the contract through a tender.
"The city only gave the financing. The responsibility lies with the victor in the tender," Poltavchenko's spokesman Andrei Kibitov told Interfax.
The picture that sparked the controversy can be seen on: twitter.com/NikitaBelyh/status/215829484887228416/photo/1