Hromadske International reports that Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky and his partner Oskana Shalygina have allegedly sexually assaulted an actress and on a separate occasion beat up her boyfriend. After being detained for questioning following their arrival from Warsaw in the Russian airport Sheremetyevo, Pavlensky and Shalygina have fled with their children to the Ukraine, fearing 10 years imprisonment and the orphaning of their children. They are currently appealing for asylum in France stating that these sexual assault charges are fabricated by the state due to the political nature of Pavlensky's work. Pavlensky is known for shock-value acts such as nailing his scrotum to the ground ("Fixation," 2013), setting fire to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) building, and cutting off his earlobe in protest of the use of forced psychiatry on Russian dissidents.
This is an incredibly perplexing situation as generally, as communities of support we should ethically both 1.) always believe and support artists when they say they're being targeted by authoritarian states and 2.) always believe and support rape victims who make claims against anyone, including (and perhaps especially) famous artists and those with influence and power. Further, the theater community has backed up the actress and her boyfriend's claim that Pavlensky did assault both of them. The theater, outside of which the boyfriend was beaten up, released CCTV footage allegedly showing the attack, however it's too blurry to make out identifiable features in the tape's subjects.
Below is an excerpt from Hromadske International's interview with Pavlensky and Shalygina (sic throughout)--the actress unsurprisingly declined to comment.
Prominent protest artist Pyotr Pavlyensky flees Russia after being accused of rape. He denies it and in the first interview since leaving Russia, exclusively for Hromadske, he calls the allegation an attempt of conducting "political elimination by security forces".
Together with his partner Oksana Shalygina and two daughters now he is in Ukraine and going to ask for political asylum in France.
According to Pavlensky, the person who pretended to be their close friend accused him and his partner of sexual assault using a criminal code article that doesn’t require any evidence for a suspect's arrest. Now he faces 10 years of jail back at home, his two kids (9 and 6 years old) - a transfer to an orphanage. The fear for the future of their daughters was the main reason behind the decision to flee, the couple tells Hromadske. Pavlensky was warned about planned 'provocation' in advance, he insists.
Russian authorities still haven't disclosed any details about the accusation, but a pre-trail investigation is already on, Olga Dinze, Pavlensky's laywer tells Hromadske.
Hromadske has contacted Anastasia Slonina, the alleged victim. She an actress at the Russian Doc Theatre. She refused to comment. We've also reached out to the Russian authorities in charge of the investigation and still are waiting for a reply.
It is too early to comment on the case while the pre-trail investigation is still ongoing, Yury Lytsenko, Slonina's lawyer tells Hromadske. 'The only thing I can say is that those insunuations about political persecution of Pavlensiy are nonsense. He gets what he deserves for his actions. There's going to be a criminal case and talks about political persecution are just a defense tactic,' Lytsenko says.
Meanwhile, Hromadske set down with Pavlensliy and Shalygina and talked with them about the developing story. Here's an edited and condensed except from the interview:
Pyotr Pavlyensky is a Russian performance artist criticizing the authroritarian slide in Russia. His worldwide known performances include "The Threat", when Pavlyensky set the doors of the Federal Security Service in St. Petersburg on fire, imitating the events of the Ukrainian Maidan. Another famous one is "Fixation" (2013), when the artist nailed his scrotum to the Red Square in Moscow. He spent 18 months in pretrial detention after the former and was released in June 2016.
Pavlensky: I suppose that the operation for our elimination in Russia has been on since 2013. We've received proposals to illegaly use weapons, to blow up the Kremlin, but we would refuse all of them. One girl, an actress at one of the Russian opposition theatres started hanging out with us since September 2016. She didn’t bring up any suspicion in us. She was looking for friendship, support, maybe relationships. It’s not a secret that we are in open relationships. So the girl started atrracting our attention and, at one moment, we supported her. That one time in question she came to see us and later filed a statement acussing us. So we don't feed anyone’s imagination, it’s important to clarify that there was no violence during that visit.
Pavlensky: On December 14th, we were met by the police and law-enforcement officials in the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow after arriving from a trip to Warsaw. Then we were charged under a criminal code article “Violent acts of a sexual nature”. It’s not a political article and reserves up to 10 years in jail
Shalygina: When they took us from the airport to the investigators' office, it became clear that we might not get out of there. They don’t release people charged under such articles. The only preventive measure is an arrest in this case. But when we were released the same evening, it became obvious that it did happen for a reason.
Pavlensky: This is an attack on four people, not just two. Because Oksana and I could've been send to a prison camp and our kids – to an orphanage.
They’ve made a good move. They’ve shown us that they can jail me using a pretext that has nothing to do with what I do for life. I thought I'm not so important, not saying much. Well, I say about enough, turns out. We'll be more careful from now on.
Pavlensky: Time we'll tell who has the final say.
*Image of Pyotr Pavlensky via Calvert Journal