Home World News Russian band critical of Putin detained after concert in Thailand, facing possible deportation to Russia

Russian band critical of Putin detained after concert in Thailand, facing possible deportation to Russia

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Bangkok — Members of a rock band that has been critical of Moscow’s war in Ukraine remained locked up Tuesday in a Thai immigration jail, fearful that they could be deported to Russia as a reported plan to let them fly to safety in Israel was apparently suspended.

The progressive rock band Bi-2 said on Facebook that it had information that intervention from Russian diplomats caused the plan to be scuttled, even though tickets had already been purchased for their flight.

“The group participants remain detained at the immigration center in a shared cell with 80 people,” the post said. It said they declined to meet with the Russian consul. The Russian press agency RIA Novosti said the refusal was confirmed by Ilya Ilyin, head of the Russian Embassy’s consular section.

The group later said on the Telegram messaging app that its singer, Yegor Bortnik, whose stage name is Lyova, boarded a flight for Israel late Tuesday, but the other members remained in the jail.

The seven band members were arrested last Thursday after playing a concert on the southern resort island of Phuket, reportedly for not having proper working papers. On Facebook, they said all their concerts “are held in accordance with local laws and practices.” Phuket is a popular destination for Russian expats and tourists. After paying a fine, the band members were sent to the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok.

The detained musicians “include Russian citizens as well as dual nationals of Russia and other countries, including Israel and Australia,” the group Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday. Those holding only Russian citizenship are thought to be most at risk.

“The Thai authorities should immediately release the detained members of Bi-2 and allow them to go on their way,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Under no circumstances should they be deported to Russia, where they could face arrest or worse for their outspoken criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

“It is not known if the Russian authorities have sought the band members’ forcible return to Russia,” Human Rights Watch said. “However, amid repression in Russia reaching new heights, Russian authorities have used transnational repression — abuses committed against nationals beyond a government’s jurisdiction — to target activists and government critics abroad with violence and other unlawful actions.”

Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara told reporters Wednesday that the country’s “National Security Council is looking into the matter, seeing what are details, including the band members’ names and nationalities,” according to French news agency AFP.

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