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French Court Sentences Protest Artist Pavlensky, But Lets Him Walk Free

Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky arrives at the Paris courthouse on January 10.
Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky arrives at the Paris courthouse on January 10.

A French court has handed Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky a prison sentence for setting fire to the facade of a French central-bank building but allowed him to walk free for time served.

The court on January 10 turned away a request by prosecutors, who had asked for 10 years for Pavlensky for his torching of the front door of a Paris branch of the Bank of France on October 16, 2017.

The court gave him a one-year jail term, plus a two-year suspended sentence. Since he had already been held for 11 months in custody, that meant he was able to walk free.

His former partner, Oksana Shalygina, received a two-year sentence, 16 months of which were suspended.

In a January 9 interview with Current Time TV, Pavlensky predicted that he would not be sentenced to prison in the case.

"I don't know, but I think I will remain at liberty," he said. "They released me before [from pretrial custody]. If they wanted to hold me in prison, I don't think they would have released me so that I could spend a few months calmly walking around Paris."

Current Time is a Russian-language TV network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

In an interview with RFE/RL in February 2018, Pavlensky said he targeted the Bank of France because it "remains a symbol of occupation for Paris" and "a firm symbol for suppression of all revolutionary beginnings."

The stunt echoed one Pavlensky carried out in Moscow in November 2015, when he set fire to a door of the headquarters of the Russian Federal Security Service. He spent six months in pretrial detention in that case before he was convicted and fined about $8,000.

Pavlensky, Shalygina, and their two children fled Russia in January 2017. They were granted political asylum in France in May 2017.

Pavlensky is known for attention-grabbing protests aimed at breaking through public indifference to perceived oppression.

In the past, he has nailed his scrotum to Moscow's Red Square, sewn his lips together, wrapped himself naked in barbed wire, and chopped off part of his ear.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, AFP, and FrenchInfo Radio
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