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Artist to arsonist: Scrotum-nailing anti-Putin stuntman sentenced for setting French bank on fire

Artist to arsonist: Scrotum-nailing anti-Putin stuntman sentenced for setting French bank on fire
A shock artist from Russia, praised in the West as a vivid Kremlin critic, has been sentenced to three years in prison for arson in France, but will walk free. The controversial ‘activist’ also received a hefty fine for his stunt.

Pyotr Pavlensky garnered international attention and support for being a vocal government critic. His shock stunts, including nailing his scrotum to the Red Square pavement and several acts of creative vandalism, made him famous in the West.

Pavlensky’s notoriety received a boost when he was fined 481,500 rubles (€6,500) by a Russian court for setting fire to the entrance of the Russian security service FSB. No prison sentence was issued though.

Apparently, that was the last straw for the notorious stuntman as he fled the ‘oppressive’ Russian regime and settled down in France. But French life became too idyllic (or miserable?) for Pavlensky, as he and his partner Oksana Shalygina repeated his arson stunt at the door of the Bank of France in October 2017.

French judges weren’t impressed by his creative genius. On Thursday, Pavlensky and Shalygina stood trial in Paris and faced up to ten years in prison for “dangerous destruction of property.”

Pavlensky’s defense tried to add a bit of artistry to the court hearing, arguing that he set the bank on fire because he was admired by the “vanguard [of] revolutionary France” which destroyed the Bastille Saint-Antoine fortress – a symbol of repression by the 18th-century French monarchy.

“We are not in a literary salon or at an art fair,” objected the prosecutor. “You can be an artist but also a delinquent.”

Despite Pavlensky’s innovative defense tactics, his arguments fell on deaf ears with the judge who ruled that his “artistic expression” amounted to nothing more than vandalism in the eyes of the law, an act which ruined the bank’s property and endangered the public.

The artist was sentenced to three years in prison, two of which were suspended. His partner was given a two-year prison term, 16 months of which were suspended. But because Pavlensky already spent 11 months in pre-trial detention, no prison time for him is enforceable at this time.

Adding to the prison term, the pair must pay €18,678 to Banque de France for material damage, in addition to €3,000 in moral damage. 

Also on rt.com Shock artist Pavlensky sets Russian security service HQ door on fire

“Never!” Pavlensky yelled out loud in Russian, making clear he has no intention of coughing up the cash for his ‘artistic expression.’

Pavlensky, a native of St. Petersburg, was granted political asylum in France in 2017 after fleeing Russia with his partner and their children following sexual assault allegations. Aside from the Red Square and FSB performances, he also sewed his mouth shut, laid naked in a cocoon of barbed wire and cut off a piece of his ear.

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