Rape-accused Russian political artist Pyotr Pavlensky to seek asylum in France

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On Monday, controversial Russian political artist Pyotr Pavlensky, currently in Paris, informed media that he and his family are to seek political asylum in France. Pavlensky said he and his partner Oksana Shalygina were falsely accused under Section 132 of the Criminal law for rape.

File photo of Pyotr Pavlensky.
Image: Dmitry Rozhkov.

The 32-year-old artist has been charged on several occasions. In the November 2015, Pavlensky set Russia's Federal Security Service's headquarters' door on fire in Moscow. Pavlensky called this an artwork named "Threat" and was sentenced to a prison term for vandalism. He was released seven months later, in June.

Anastasia Slonina, an actress working in a theatre in Moscow called Teatr.doc, known for liberal plays, filed rape charges on Pavlensky and his partner Oksana. The theatre claims to have a CCTV video footage of Pavlensky and other men beating Slonina's boyfriend in the parking lot on October 31. Pavlensky said he does not appear in the video.

Pavlensky and Oksana were detained in December at Sheremetyevo airport for questioning, which went on for seven hours. Pavlensky commented the rape charges had a political motivation behind it and denied the allegations. Olga Papernaya, former art director at Moscow's film club said, "Alas, yesterday a national hero and a great performance artist, today — it’s true — a criminal, a psychopath and a rapist". Pavlensky, Oksana, and their two daughters left for Ukraine in mid-December before flying to France. They arrived in Paris on Saturday.

In one of several painful performances, Pyotr Pavlensky sewed his lips to support members of musical band Pussy Riot who were imprisoned that time. The band members were charged with hooliganism for performing an anti-Putin song in a church. In 2013, he nailed his scrotum in Moscow's Red Square naming the art as "Fixation". Earlier in 2013, he wrapped himself, half naked, in a cocoon of barbed wire. The following year, he chopped off a part of his right ear lobe with a chef's knife sitting nude on a roof labelling the art as "Segregation".

About returning to Russia, Pavlensky told BBC, "I have no desire to return like a lamb to the slaughter, especially a slaughter that is desired, by the state." Pavlensky and Oksana are liable to be sentenced to a ten-year jail term if found guilty.