updated 10/21/2006 4:41:58 PM ET 2006-10-21T20:41:58

A group of young men ransacked one of Moscow’s best known modern art galleries on Saturday, ripping paintings from walls and damaging equipment, its staff said.

The attack was launched on the Marat Gelman gallery a day after photograph montages it had displayed caricaturing the Russian and U.S. Presidents were seized by Russian customs at a Moscow airport.

“A group of tough-looking young men in black jackets and hats came into the gallery. They clearly knew the layout,” gallery manager Sergei Serebrennikov said.

“They split up into groups and set about smashing all paintings on the wall, attacked our offices, smashed equipment and telephones and took mobile phones away from our staff.”

Paintings were trampled on the floor of the gallery, one of Moscow’s best known in operation since the early 1990s, and papers, books and office supplies were strewn about.

The assailants ran off. None of the staff was hurt. The gallery’s owners closed their doors for two weeks.

Interfax news agency quoted officials at the Moscow prosecutor’s office as saying that a criminal case had been launched into the incident.

Serebrennikov said he could not make any direct connection with the incident on Friday in which customs seized several photo montages which had been intended for display at a gallery in Britain.

Customs officers said they were holding the photographs on grounds that export papers were not in order.

But British gallery owner Matthew Cullern Bown said he believed they were unhappy about the satirical representation of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush in semi-naked poses along with Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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