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Russian Protest Artist Pavlensky's French Detention Prolonged


Pyotr Pavlensky poses in front of the Banque de France building after setting fire to the window gates as part of a performance in Paris on October 16.

A court in Paris has prolonged the pretrial detention of the Russian protest artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who was detained in October after setting fire to an entrance of the Bank of France in the French capital.

Pavlensky was charged with damaging private property by dangerous means. His partner, Olga Shalygina, who was also detained on October 16, 2017, was released from custody in January.

After the court ruling on February 9, Pavlensky told RFE/RL via Twitter on February 9 that his October 16 stunt was linked to key events in French history.

Pavlensky said he picked the Bank of France because it is located on the site of the former Bastille prison-fortress.

"Bank of France was and remains a symbol of occupation for Paris and that of killings of its residents. And for France, it remains a firm symbol for suppression of all revolutionary beginnings and that of the old order's triumph. And here we have now, the Bank of France on the site of Bastille Fortress. If not the authorities' intimidation of the society, what is it?" Pavlensky wrote to RFE/RL.

Pavlensky said he had been on hunger strike for 12 days to protest a separate closed-door hearing on his psychological state. He was later transferred to a prison hospital where he was fed intravenously.

Pavlensky said he was now being kept in solitary confinement.

Pavlensky told RFE/RL that he had no information about his possible deportation back to Russia, saying he tried not to think about it.

"I do not know anything about deportation. And, honestly, I do not want to put pressure on myself by focusing on some murky fantasies about a possible future," Pavlensky wrote.

Pavlensky's October stunt in Paris echoed a previous one in November 2015 in which he set fire to a door at the headquarters of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow.

He spent 18 months in pretrial detention after that.

Pavlensky, Shalygina, and their children received political asylum in France in May after they fled Russia in January.

Russian police questioned Pavlensky and Shalygina in December, saying that a Moscow actress had accused them of raping her.

Pavlensky denied the allegation and described it as blackmail aimed at preventing him from carrying out political activities in Russia.

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 FSB control over society.

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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