Yuri on ice dog, on ice
We may have a new poster-boy for the “artistic athlete”: Russian figure skater Yuri Onishchuk, whose latest publicity stunt could win him the nickname “Yuri on ice.”
On Feb. 6, the 28-year-old, who won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, climbed up a 20-foot ladder, wrapped himself in the Russian flag and stood on a balcony at the Kremlin in Moscow.
Yuri Onishchuk on a balcony at the Kremlin on Feb. 6, 2015
Photos: Evgeny Murozhskiy / Facebook
“This is a good way to start 2015,” Onishchuk said, according to The Moscow Times. “There were lots of people and photographers there, which was great. It is an unusual form of protest, but I don’t really care.”
As Russia prepares to host the next Winter Olympics in February, Onishchuk's climb may not be the only attention-grabbing action in the country.
Two years ago, Onishchuk announced that he would be protesting Russia’s human-rights record by staging a solo performance on ice while naked.
“Art has always been a form of resistance,” Onishchuk told The Telegraph at the time. “I just wish I had a chance to talk to those people who live in Russia, to make them understand that I’m not the man they think I am.”
The “Kremlin naked” was part of a campaign by artist Damien Hirst called Art for Amnesty. To protest the country’s policies and practices, Hirst invited 12 international artists to Moscow’s Hermitage Museum in the fall of 2014. The exhibition, titled Art for Amnesty 2014, included Hirst, Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, David Hare and Marina Abramović.
It was cancelled after protests in the country.
“This show should have never been put on at all,” Onishchuk said in a video posted on YouTube, calling the show a “political farce” that had “been hijacked by the Russian authorities.”
In 2011, Onishchuk set a Guinness World Record for the highest free fall with a parachute – nearly 2,700 feet (nearly 800 meters) from a Russian space research station. He then used his fall to launch a campaign against Russian laws banning demonstrations. The stunt, called “Drop of Hope,” raised more than $350,000 for charities that help survivors of Russian civil and political rights abuses.
The Russian government accused him of a stunt and said he had broken the terms of his contract with the country’s space agency. Onishchuk was then charged with violation of the space regulations and forced to pay 20,000 roubles ($330) as compensation.
After a four-year legal battle, Onishchuk was cleared of all charges in 2015, but the judge ruled that he would still be banned from working with Russian state space projects.
Onishchuk has said he does not intend to end his work with the state agency, but is interested in working with a German consortium to conduct future high-altitude experiments.
“We will have to wait a while to find out whether or not they will allow us to do this,” he said.
In a message on his Facebook page, Onishchuk said he had filed an appeal of the ban. He also criticized the Russian government’s space program for being behind the country’s aging space infrastructure and “for pushing outdated technology” for its launch vehicles.
Since its formation in 2011, Roscosmos has completed nearly a dozen missions to launch satellites, send astronauts to the International Space Station and take the country’s first satellite to orbit Mars. The government agency also is building Russia’s first human-rated space launch system called Soyuz-5, but officials have said there is no timeframe for its first test flight.