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.
Olga Dinze, Pavlensky’s lawyer, who was present when they were giving testimony, explained to Hromadske that investigators didn’t show them the statement itself, and they don’t know what exactly they are accused of. Pre-trial investigation is undergoing. It’s not clear whether the proceeding has already been open or not. However, the lawyer has said that the opening of such cases in Russian is is often refused because they are widely used for manipulations. Dinze has explained that in such cases the investigators have to examine the scene and conduct criminal expertise to find out whether the woman could inflicted the injury upon herself (cuts on the arms – ed.). The lawyer has mentioned that referring to the information given by investigators it hasn’t been done yet. The woman passed the polygraph, which under Russian law can’t serve as evidence. Still the results on the polygraph test haven't been presented yet.
According to the defense, Pavlyensky was slandered and artist’s living in Russia is not desirable, in order to prevent other political actions. (Dinze is also the lawyer of the Ukrainian Evgen Panov, who was kidnapped by the Russian Federation and is now accused of conducting subversive activities in Crimea. Svetlana Sydorkina is the lawyer of Oksana Shalygina, she was also working under the case of Oleksandr Kolchenko).
Hromadske contacted Anastasia Slonina who pressed charges and works as an actress in the Russian Doc Theatre. When she heard the question she hung up the phone immediately. We also sent the request and are waiting for the reply from Symonovsky international department of the investigative unit of the southern administrative district of Moscow in which the charge was filed. As well as we are waiting for the reply from the investigative committee of the Russian Federation.
Yuri Lysenko, Slonina’s lawyer comments:
"I can only say that talks about persecution Pavlyenskoho - nonsense. He holds a response for what he does. A criminal case will be opened, and talk of political pressure - a way to protect" - told us the lawyer, citing no additional data.
"Sooner or later, the citizen who calls himself an artist gets into some kind of “adventure”. There wouldn’t be a statement if there wasn’t anything to state about. I’m not the one to inspect the process, so I can not say when it will end. It may take a month and a half. As a lawyer I understand that he developed some legal position to justify himself. He was never charged with political articles."
“He was never charged with political articles."
Slonina’s Lawyer, Yuri Lysenko
We’ve also sent requests and waiting for a response from Simonovsky regional police investigative department in the Southern Administrative District of Moscow, which submitted the application, and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. Hromadske met with the family and raised questions about the case.
Pyotr Pavlensky is a performance artist, whose activity is aimed at criticizing of the police regime in Russia. During the latest performance "Threat" Pavlensky set fire to the doors of the FSB in St. Petersburg, imitating the events of the Ukrainian Maidan. One of the most famous actions by Pavlensky is "Fixation" (2013), when he nailed his scrotum to Red Square in Moscow.
The artist turns the trial against him into performances, by using power in his favor.
Pavlensky calls his recent accusation a good attempt by the government to discredit him and make pressure on his family.
Hromadske met with the couple to talk about the case.
Pyotr Pavlensky, Ksenia (Oksana) Shalygina
Development of our elimination of Russia lasted from fixation in Red Square.
First there were criminal cases with the restriction of freedom, arrest, the threat of arrest and mental harassment. Then - more severe measure of restraint and large fines.
To influence economically or administratively was hard on us as property, work and relationships with the educational system, we did not. It was impossible to squeeze by threatening someway on us, dismissing or exclude children from school. All this time, government tried to neutralize us accurately and technically.
And all the time between us there was a struggle for the naming. A struggle for naming - it is a struggle for public opinion. All these years the regime was trying to prove that I am a criminal or a madman. No matter who, most importantly, not an artist, but the destroyer of cultural values. Until now, they didn’t succeed, and all their attempts turned against the police system. The system itself exposed the repressive own mechanics.
“The regime has a great power and technical resource”
However, the regime has a great power and technical resource. Behind us is continuously monitored, we have listened to and looked for ways to remove from the public and political life of the country. Since we met agents, who offered weapons and asked to come up with something big with explosions and the seizure of the Kremlin. Repeat the fate of the so-called "Crimean terrorists" we did not want, so they refused. But in the end mode I have found a way to eliminate skillfully us from Russia.
We have always talked openly about contempt for the institution of marriage, family and marital fidelity. This is one of the varieties of the institution of property for us.
What could be more cynical than the other person to declare his thing?
Since September 2015 we started communicate with woman. She was an actress of the opposition theater, so the suspicion isn’t aroused. She was looking for communication, support and relations. We were open to the people, and gave her a chance to get close to us.
This proved fatal - our position on free relations wrapped in criminal violence against the person. We tried to make victims of the dirty intrigues. Actress turned informer, and spent the evening visiting us, has become a statement of sexual assault committed by a group of persons, that is, me and my closest friend Oksana. To feed someone's imagination, it was not necessary to say that there was no violence.
A good move on machine’s part: what we are charged with - is a heavy article and up to ten years in prison, and for two people at once. But factually speaking, it’s a damage done immediately to four people. The two are sent to the camp with a dirty article for the next 10 years to tell cons they became naive victims of rapid development. And two more - to comprehend the school of life in children's homes. Technical response of the authorities for denying the institution of marriage and the education system.
After being detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport and questioning the Investigation Committee gave us unexpectedly quit. Senior investigator said that as long as we will not be arrested, as in this case can not be in a hurry, the main thing - objectivity, and he needs to collect all the evidence. He asked not to leave the confines of Moscow and be right on cue. Everyone who is slightly familiar with the law enforcement system will immediately understand the absurdity of what is happening - there are no frivolous system. Failure doesn’t happen out of the blue. The system is based on the psychological benefits. With a severe degree article, the person arrested immediately, especially if they do not have residence and domicile in a particular region.
We did not have that. There was only a monstrous Article 132 - you can slender anyone but to prove innocence is almost impossible. It is not like rape, for which one needs at least some expertise. This is the only one application-judged article. We do not know how long the actress is working with the police. But now we know that the accusation was revived in Russia. Of course, with the 30s there was a significant evolution of denunciation. Who can not be condemned for counterrevolutionary activities or anti-Soviet agitation. After all, "Russia is a democratic federal law state with a republican form of government," and "in the Russian Federation ideological diversity is recognized." But this is only formal.
We were coming back from Warsaw. About the existence of a written statement and that we are wanted, we were warned 5 days before returning. Thanks to the same actress, through our mutual friend with her. We ignored this warning. So when we came back, we were greeted at the airport so as to doubt the seriousness of intentions did not arise. After that, we were shown that we only had two options: either to go custodial camp or beyond the borders of the Russian passport control. Going in jail for what I did not do, and with “sheep-like submissiveness” going to the slaughter, beneficial to the state, I wouldn’t agree under any circumstances. Or even more, pulling over with myself my close ones and depriving them of their liberty. I admit that the machine was able to perform its move. Development went successful.
But in this struggle, there is no permanence.
We will be careful, and life will show who’ll have the last word.
Update 17 Jan 2017:
Moscow police refused to initiate criminal proceedings against the artist Pyetra Pavlyenskoho, who was suspected of beating a person. However, the inspection on possible rape continues. This was reported by Pavlyensky lawyer Olga Dinze to RBC.