Members of the Belarusian-Russian Bi-2 team, who in the past openly criticized Vladimir Putin’s policy and Russian aggression against Ukraine, were arrested in Thailand. They have been kept “in terrible conditions” for a week, Radio Swoboda reports. The group’s leader, Yegor Bortnik, was transported to Israel on Tuesday. The remaining musicians face deportation to Russia.
The musicians of the rock group Bi-2, known for their criticism of the Kremlin, have been arrested, the Meduza portal reported. The arrest took place on Wednesday, January 24 in Phuket, where the band performed the day before. The official reason for the arrest was the lack of appropriate work permits Thailand. The musicians themselves said that the organizers of their concert were to blame for the arrest. They admitted to negligence. “The Bi-2 group is not responsible for the error,” they stressed in a statement to the press, adding that they were “doing everything in their power” to release the artists, but were facing “unprecedented pressure.” According to the Radio Svoboda website, the detention of Bi-2 members was in fact caused by a “request” from the Russian authorities.
Bi-2 members held in a ‘cage under the scorching sun’
As indicated by entries posted on the band’s official social media account, Bi-2 members have been detained in a deportation center in Bangkok “in terrible conditions” for a week. They are to stay in a common cell with 80 other people. As reported by Radio Swoboda, the cell is located outside. “It’s a cage under the scorching sun, it’s 35-40 degrees there now,” said Mikhail Kozyrev, a journalist from the independent Russian Dozhd television.
According to Kozyrev’s findings, Bi-2 members have no way of communicating with the outside world. They were also denied the right to translate court documents in their case. They are also to be visited in their cells by Russian-speaking “negotiators” who put psychological pressure on them, threatening them with severe consequences and suggesting a bribe in exchange for waiving the extradition procedure.
SEE ALSO: Russia is chasing Khodorkovsky again
Musicians are at risk of deportation to Russia
As the BBC notes, some of the seven Bi-2 members have dual citizenship Australia or Israel, which may be crucial for the direction of their possible deportation. This was the case of the group’s leader Yegor Bortnik, who was transported to Israel on Tuesday. According to the findings of the Meduza website, four artists were initially planned to be sent there. The Thai authorities also allegedly advocated not sending the rest of the group to Moscow. However, on Tuesday, under pressure from Russian diplomats, they changed their mind. A new round of negotiations on the group’s deportation is scheduled for Wednesday, January 31.
Human Rights Watch became involved in the issue of possibly sending Bi-2 members to Russia. In a statement issued on Monday, she appealed to stop deporting them.
– The authorities should immediately release the detained Bi-2 members and allow them to continue their journey. Under no circumstances should they be deported to Russia, where they face arrest or reprisals for openly criticizing the Russian president. Vladimir Putin and war in Ukraine – said Elaine Pearson, director of HRW in Asia, quoted on the organization’s website. According to HRW representatives, sending the musicians to Russia would violate Thai law and the provisions of the Convention UNunder which Thailand is obliged not to return people to countries where they may face torture or persecution upon return.
Responding to the above appeal, Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara stated on Wednesday that since the artists had broken the law, they must be deported – reports the Thai website Nation Thailand.
Russia has included the Bi-2 leader on the list of “foreign agents”
Bi-2 is a Russian-speaking rock band. The group was founded in 1988 in Bobruisk Belarus. Its leader is Yegor Bortnik, better known as Liowa Bi-2. Last May, Russian Ministry of Justice placed the musician on the list of “foreign agents” in response to his opposition to the war in Ukraine and speaking negatively about Russia and its authorities.
BBC, Radio Swoboda, Meduza, PAP, TVN24.pl
Main photo source: Horacio Villalobos/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images