Russian performance artist granted political asylum in France

Pyotr Pavlensky and his partner Oksana Shalygina fled after charges of sexual assault were brought against them in Russia


Pyotr Pavlensky, the Russian political performance artist famous for nailing his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square and setting fire to the door of Russia’s Federal Security Service headquarters, has secured political asylum in France.

The artist’s lawyer, Dominique Beyreuther Minkov, made the announcement on her Facebook page on 4 May. “A beautiful day...asylum granted,” she posted along with a photograph of herself with Pavlensky and his partner Oksana Shalygina. Pavlensky confirmed that they had received asylum to the Interfax news agency.

Pavlensky and Shalygina came to France via Ukraine with their two young daughters in January after an actress at the experimental Teatr.doc filed a sexual assault complaint against them last year. They were questioned by police in December and have said their encounter with her was consensual.

The assault charges brought against Pavlensky opened a social media debate among Russia’s liberal intelligentsia, both over his moral character and the problem of sexual violence in general. But his performances against the Russian government in recent years have also been described as brilliant social commentary and brave political activism. The online response to his asylum was muted and sometimes mocking, however, including thanks to France for taking him off of Russia’s hands.