The Russian Embassy in Latvia has written to express "extreme indignation and disgust" with an artwork on display in Riga that appears to show President Vladimir Putin being crucified, according to the embassy's Facebook page.

Putin's spokesperson has also commented on the artwork. "This is bad," Dmitry Peskov was reported to have said on Friday. "This is on the conscience of whoever did this."

The artwork, which allows visitors to press nails into the male figure hanging on a cross, is one part of a wider art display taking place outside the former KGB headquarters in Riga. According to reports in the Latvian press, the artist for this exhibit chose to remain anonymous.

Latvian officials has sought to downplay the artwork's message, saying that the figure was not designed to represent Putin or any other living person. The artist behind the controversial piece told Latvian publication Diena that the figure represented a "businessman" and had been modeled on an acquaintance from Italy.

However the placement of the statue lead some visitors to assume it was the Russian president. "It is logical that this exhibit is in the center of Riga," local news quoted one visitor as saying, according to Russia Today. "[Putin] used to work in the security service himself and deserves to have a nail driven through him."

Latvia, once part of the Soviet Union, has been especially concerned about the Russian leader's policies. With a sizable ethnic Russian minority, some fear that the country could be driven to war like Ukraine was last year.

On Saturday, Diena reported that the exhibition had been canceled after a number of unspecified "threats." It is unclear if or when it would reopen.

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