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Russian artist at center of French sex tape scandal held

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Paris, France   /   Sun, February 16, 2020   /   10:30 am
Russian artist at center of French sex tape scandal held In this file photo taken on early November 09, 2015 Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky poses after setting fire to the doors of the headquarters of the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB, in central Moscow. Emmanuel Macron's candidate for Paris mayor, Benjamin Griveaux, withdrew from the race over a leaked sex video on February 13, in a blow for the French president's party ahead of March local elections. Griveaux said he opted for retreat to protect his family after a website published video excerpts of a man masturbating, accompanied by screengrabs of racy text messages, which it said came from the former government spokesman. On February 14, the Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky confirmed, in an AFP interview in the office of his lawyer Juan Branco, that he was responsible for publishing the video online. (AFP/Nigina Beroeva)

Controversial Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who claims to have leaked a sex video of a prominent Paris politician, was arrested by French police on Saturday over an unrelated act of violence, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

The political refugee was taken in for questioning over an alleged instance of "armed violence" that took place on December 31.

The prosecutor stressed that the case had no link to the sex video case involving French President Emmanuel Macron's chosen candidate to become Paris mayor, Benjamin Griveaux.

Too hot to handle in his home country Russia, the gaunt looking Pavlensky, 35, fled to France where he has caused uproar by putting the sex video online which forced Griveaux to withdraw from the mayoral race.

Griveaux, a 42-year-old MP, has brought a legal case against Pavlensky over the release of the video and an enquiry has been opened, the prosecutor said later Saturday.

Pavlensky, an activist and performance artist, told AFP on Friday that he had put the video online in order to expose Griveaux's "hypocrisy", and warned that he planned to post more material on a newly-created "political porn platform".

Griveaux "is someone who constantly brings up family values, who says he wants to be the mayor of families and always cites his wife and children as an example. But he is doing the opposite," Pavlensky told the Liberation daily.

The artist has a track record of causing outrage.

He made global headlines in 2013 after nailing his scrotum to Red Square in Moscow and two years later doused the doors of the FSB secret police headquarters with petrol and set them on fire.

In October 2017, he set fire to offices of the Bank of France on Place Bastille, site of the attack on the infamous fortress at the start of the French revolution in 1789.

The bank's presence on such hallowed revolutionary ground was "historically shameful", Pavlensky said.

For that he was sentenced to three years' jail, two suspended, for the destruction of other people's property. 

His hardline stance and eye watering protests have elicited a mixed response among Russian opposition  groups.

Some defend his actions as a form of engaged art but others such as late rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva were blunter, branding his actions "idiotic".

The December 31 incident, for which Pavlensky was arrested on Saturday, involved a fight at a Paris apartment in which a knife from the kitchen was used.

Two guests at the New Year's Eve party suffered knife wounds, according to the Mediapart investigative website.