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France gave asylum to ‘political martyr’ Pavlensky, but it got an unstable anarchist instead

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
France gave asylum to ‘political martyr’ Pavlensky, but it got an unstable anarchist instead
The French love an outre liberal cause, until the point comes when that cause makes them look un petit fou – as their recent infatuation with anti-Kremlin artist-activist Pyotr Pavlensky is proving to turn out.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the attention-seeking Russian ‘anarch-artist,’ who recently fell out of Paris’ favor for releasing kompromat on a public official, has now been discovered in a photo together with an acknowledged Ukrainian neo-Nazi.

Liberation dug up the 2016 picture of Pavlensky with Dmitriy Riznychenko, who has admitted having fought in the Maidan revolution and in the east of Ukraine as part of nationalist groups, as well as having been part of the C14 neo-Nazi organization. The picture was taken before Riznychenko’s circa-2017 reformation, described in detail by the Russian arm of US-sponsored Radio Free Europe.

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The same Radio Free Europe, along with a number of other mainstream outlets, has been fawning over Pavlensky’s perceived struggle against the Kremlin. His story, Pussy Riot-style, probably had the French believing that giving him asylum from a sexual assault case he was facing in Russia would prove a useful irritant to the Russian government.

It took until Pavlensky violated one of the very French taboos, the privacy of people in public office, for his hosts to notice the antics that, quite apart from his political activism, made him a threat to society.

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Pavlensky – whose stunts in Russia included nailing his scrotum to the pavement in Red Square, and setting the doors of the FSB headquarters on fire, which earned him a seven-month spell in prison – was arrested in France during the weekend. It arose from a brawl at a party on New Year’s Eve during which he allegedly wielded a knife, threatening partygoers, injuring two, before someone hit him on the head with a bottle.

Police moved on the incident following the standing down of En Marche candidate for the mayor of Paris, Benjamin Griveaux, after Pavlensky released a sex tape online allegedly featuring the family-man-styled politician.

But Pavlensky has previous episodes in France. His last stunt saw him given a three-year suspended sentence for setting fire to the doors of the Banque de France back in 2017, when he declared that he wanted to start a “new revolution.”

The irony is that the architects of the previous French Revolution witnessed the birth of liberal democracy, the descendants of which gave Pavlensky political asylum in the first place – the hospitality he is treating so frivolously. While the earlier threat of jail has passed after his 2017-imposed suspended prison term expired, Pavlensky has now been arrested for a more serious offence of violence. It would seem wise to lay low rather than flout France’s treasured privacy values.

Anyone paying attention to French politics is already aware that challenging that taboo is a big no-no. So much so, that even Marine Le Pen, on the other end of the political spectrum to En Marche, came out in support of Griveaux as he withdrew his candidacy from the mayoral race with just a month to go before polling day.

With Moscow off-limits, the salon doors of Paris slamming shut and his unpredictable behavior a cause for concern for any well-intentioned sponsor, it is time for Pyotr Pavlensky to consider his “art” in the real context of his environment.

That environment may be, in the short term, a French prison cell.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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