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In place of the picture, visitors to Ikea Russia’s site now see a statement that reads: “Ikea is a commercial organization that operates independently of politics and religion. We cannot allow our advertising project to be used as a means of propaganda.”

That statement from Ikea, via the Moscow Times, was the result of a photo contest Ikea was running on Facebook. It received 1,431 ‘likes’ before it was removed. Reuters reports:

Furniture firm IKEA has removed a photograph from its Russian website of people in colourful ski masks like those worn by punk band Pussy Riot, three of whose members were jailed after staging a protest against Vladimir Putin in a church.

A representative of IKEA in Russia confirmed on Sunday the notice had replaced a photograph of people wearing ski masks and declined to comment further immediately, asking for a written request which would be answered on Monday.

IKEA has invested about 2.5 billion euros ($3.25 billion) in Russia since 2000, building stores that anchor malls on the outskirts of big cities. When it posted record profits for the fiscal 2010/11 year in December, the company said some of its biggest sales gains were in Russia.

In other Pussy Riot news, the group was awarded a prestigious grant from Yoko Ono and Amnesty International:

“It’s a terrible thing that all three girls have been jailed for not doing anything wrong. They were just standing for freedom of speech,” Ono said at a ceremony in New York City.

Verzilov thanked Ono, saying the grant increased international pressure on Russian authorities to release the women.




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