Theater director asks Putin to protect arts from pressure

A Russian theater director is asking President Vladimir Putin to protect the nation's arts scene from interference by officials and vigilantes.

During Putin's meeting Friday with Russian cultural figures, Yevgeny Mironov pleaded with him to stop officials and conservative groups from trying to censor the creative arts. Mironov, a prominent actor, is the artistic director of Moscow's Theater of Nations.

Putin said freedom of artistic expression must be protected, but added that creative artists must be careful not to offend religious feelings.

Amid a growing conservative streak, a Moscow art gallery shut down an exhibition of nude photos by an American photographer after a raid by vigilantes. The Siberian city of Omsk also banned a performance of the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" following a petition by devout Orthodox believers.