Russian artist at centre of French sex tape scandal held

Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky speaks during a press interview with AFP at his lawyer's office in Paris on Feb 14, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - 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 (Feb 15) 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 Dec 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 Dec 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.

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