Pyotr Pavlensky, the defiant Russian artist known for nailing his scrotum to Red Square and setting the doors to the Federal Security Service headquarters on fire, has fled Russia and says he is seeking asylum in France. Pavlensky, 32, fled to Kiev with his partner, Oksana Shalygina, last month, saying sexual assault charges against him in Russia were fabricated to silence his criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pavlensky told Reuters in his first interview since then that he and Shalygina were detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Dec. 14 and interrogated for hours over accusations the pair had committed a sex crime against an actress both of them had slept with.
Russia’s Novaya Gazeta cited Vsevolod Lisovsky, the director of Moscow’s Teatr.doc, accusing Pavlensky of attempting to rape one of the theater’s actresses along with Shalygina, and also cutting her with a knife. He also claimed Pavlensky and Shalygina brutally attacked another actor at the theater. Pavlensky has maintained his innocence and said the allegations were fabricated by the FSB to discredit him. “It's clear that the people in the security services aim to work carefully and quietly, not messily or crudely. Probably they believe that beating someone and bloodshed is crude. If it's possible to do it quietly, they aim to do so,” he told Reuters. Russia’s Investigative Committee has not yet confirmed if a criminal case has been opened against Pavlensky.