Rock band vital of Putin is detained in Thailand, frightened of deportation to Russia

BANGKOK — Members of a rock band that has been vital of Moscow’s conflict in Ukraine remained locked up Tuesday in a Thai immigration jail, fearful that they might be deported to Russia as a reported plan to allow them to fly to security in Israel was apparently suspended.

The progressive rock band Bi-2 mentioned on Fb that it had info that intervention from Russian diplomats triggered the plan to be scuttled, regardless that tickets had already been bought for his or her flight.

“The group members stay detained on the immigration heart in a shared cell with 80 folks,” the submit mentioned. It mentioned they declined to satisfy with the Russian consul. The Russian press company RIA Novosti mentioned the refusal was confirmed by Ilya Ilyin, head of the Russian Embassy’s consular part.

The group later mentioned on the Telegram messaging app that its singer, Yegor Bortnik, whose stage identify is Lyova, boarded a flight for Israel late Tuesday, however the different members remained within the jail.

The seven band members have been arrested final Thursday after taking part in a live performance on the southern resort island of Phuket, reportedly for not having correct working papers. On Fb, they mentioned all their concert events “are held in accordance with native legal guidelines and practices.” Phuket is a well-liked vacation spot for Russian expats and vacationers. After paying a nice, the band members have been despatched to the Immigration Detention Heart in Bangkok.

The detained musicians “embody Russian residents in addition to twin nationals of Russia and different nations, together with Israel and Australia,” the group Human Rights Watch mentioned in a press release Tuesday. These holding solely Russian citizenship are regarded as most in danger.

“The Thai authorities ought to instantly launch the detained members of Bi-2 and permit them to go on their means,” mentioned Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “By no means ought to they be deported to Russia, the place they may face arrest or worse for his or her outspoken criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.”

“It isn’t identified if the Russian authorities have sought the band members’ forcible return to Russia,” Human Rights Watch mentioned. “Nonetheless, amid repression in Russia reaching new heights, Russian authorities have used transnational repression — abuses dedicated in opposition to nationals past a authorities’s jurisdiction — to focus on activists and authorities critics overseas with violence and different illegal actions.”

Self-exiled Russian opposition politician and a buddy of Bi-2, Dmitry Gudkov, informed the AP that he had been in contact with legal professionals and diplomats in an try to safe the band’s launch and urged that strain to detain and deport them got here straight from the Kremlin and the Russian Overseas Ministry.

Russia, Gudkov mentioned, wants an “evocative story to point out that they may catch any critic overseas. That is all taking place within the run-up to (Russia’s presidential election), and it’s clear that they wish to shut everybody up, and that’s why there’s intense strain occurring.”

Russia’s ambassador to Thailand Yevgeny Tomikhin mentioned Russian diplomats weren’t answerable for the group’s detention.

“It’s not our apply to dictate to anybody. Individuals can do that. We don’t behave like that and don’t make such requests,” Tomikhin was quoted as telling the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

There have been no public statements from Thai officers on the state of affairs.

Bi-2 has 1.01 million subscribers to its YouTube channel and 376,000 month-to-month listeners on Spotify.

Andrei Lugovoi, a member of the decrease home of Russia’s parliament, referred to as the band members “scum” for his or her criticism of Russia’s navy operations in Ukraine.

“Let the fellows prepare: quickly they are going to be taking part in and singing on spoons and on steel plates, faucet dancing in entrance of their cellmates,” Lugovoi mentioned on Telegram. “Personally, I’d be very comfortable to see this.”

Britain has accused Lugovoi of involvement within the demise of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006 after being poisoned with tea laced with radioactive polonium-210.


Related Press writers Emma Burrows and Jim Heintz in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed.

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