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Protest Artist Pavlensky Flees Russia Over Attempted-Rape Allegation

Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky (right) speaks while his partner Oksana Shalygina looks on during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv on January 4.
Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky (right) speaks while his partner Oksana Shalygina looks on during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv on January 4.

PRAGUE -- Russian protest-performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky says he has fled Russia after authorities there questioned him regarding allegations that he attempted to rape a woman.

Pavlensky told Current Time TV on January 16 that he and his partner, Oksana Shalygina, left Russia for France with their two children after they were questioned by investigators on their arrival from Warsaw on December 14.

Pavlensky said investigators had told him and Shalygina that a Moscow actress, Anastasia Slonina, had filed a legal claim against them accusing them of attempting to rape her.

Pavlensky denied the allegation, saying that Slonina herself had sought relations with him and his partner.

"There was no rape, there was nothing that can described as something similar to violence.... We stand on the position of free relations. That position is about different forms of relations but we, in principle, are against any violence in the sphere of personal relations," Pavlensky said.

He described the accusations as blackmail aimed at preventing him from carrying out political activities in Russia.

"The first charges against me were just administrative, then they became criminal probes envisioning minor limitations of freedom and later with more serious freedom limitations and in parallel there was a psychological pressure. Then it turned to a real arrest, which ended with a fine so that everybody would say, 'Look how kind the Russian government is,'" Pavlensky said.

"But in fact, that dialogue with authorities can be interpreted as their intention to put me in jail, not as a person who fought against the regime, who did not agree with the regime, but as a person who is dangerous for society."

Slonina's lawyer, Yury Lysenko, told Current Time TV, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, that no formal investigation into the accusation was under way.

Pavlensky said he would seek political asylum in France if an investigation was officially launched.

"They want to launch the probe and now both of us, I and Oksana [Shalygina] are being persecuted. Actually the persecution is of four people, because two others, the children, will then -- if we are jailed -- be sent to orphanages to learn the life," Pavlensky said.

Pavlensky, who is known for startling protests that sometimes involve self-mutilation, says his performances draw attention to the indifference of many Russians to what he says is widespread Federal Security Service (FSB) control over society.

He spent more than six months in pretrial detention after he doused a large wooden door at the FSB's Moscow headquarters with gasoline and set it on fire in November 2015.

He was released in June and ordered to pay a hefty fine, which he refused to do.

Pavlensky has also nailed his scrotum to Red Square, sewn his lips together, wrapped himself in barbed wire, and chopped off part of his ear.

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