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Russian Protest Artist Pavlensky Faces Arson Trial In Paris


Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky poses in front of the Bank of France building after setting fire to the window gates as part of a performance in Paris on October 16, 2017.

Russian political performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky went on trial in Paris on January 10 on charges of setting fire to the facade of a French central bank building.

Prosecutors in the case have called for Pavlensky to receive a sentence of up to 10 years in prison after torching the front door of a Paris branch of the Banque de France on October 16, 2017.

He was held in custody for nearly a year before being released in September 2018, following several hunger strikes and repeated claims that he had been tortured.

In a January 9 interview with Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, 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."

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 (FSB). He spent six months in pretrial detention in that case before he was convicted and fined about $8,000.

Pavlensky, his partner Olga 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 Red Square, sewn his lips together, wrapped himself naked in barbed wire, and chopped off part of his ear.

With reporting by Current Time TV and AFP
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