A young Ukrainian women’s rights activist sneaked past security and partially stripped in front the Vatican’s Saint-Peter Basilica just after the Pope’s Sunday Angelus.
The blonde activist, initially wearing tight jeans and a see-through black tulle top, struck provocative poses against the dramatic backdrop of the basilica and the papal apartments, where Benedict XVI had given his traditional blessing moments earlier.
Legs splayed, she brandished a black placard demanding ‘Freedom for Women’ and then took her top off, according to a photographer on the scene.
Italian police labouriously subdued the topless activist, who was still kicking and screaming as they dragged her away from the papal enclave under the bewildered gaze of faithful and tourists.
She belongs to a Ukrainian women’s rights group called Femen, which campaigns against sexism and whose topless tactics have attracted increasing public attention in recent years.
The group was founded in Kiev in 2008 to combat sex tourism, prostitution and sexual harassment targeting female university students in Ukarine.
Their previous stunt was just a few blocks away on Saturday, when naked activists with their busts painted in the red, white and green colours of the Italian flag joined a mass protest against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The 75-year-old leader, a self-confessed womaniser, is battling teenage prostitution allegations and in the eyes of many symbolises Italian machismo.
The pope, who has been accused of holding intolerant views on women’s rights, is another favourite target of Femen’s activists.
In a European tour kicked off a week ago, the brazen blondes also staged a protest – complete with mops, buckets and hotel maid uniforms – in front of disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Paris home.