Russian artist and activist Pyotr Pavlensky has been detained by French authorities following the release of a sexually explicit video and texts featuring French politician Benjamin Griveaux.
Griveaux had been running in Paris’ mayoral elections, representing President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La Republique en Marche! (The Republic That Works!) He withdrew on 14 February after the private video went public. On 16 February, France’s Health Minister Agnes Buzyn announced she will run for the role instead.
Pavlensky and his girlfriend, Alexandra de Taddeo, were held by police on Saturday based on an invasion of privacy complaint filed by Griveaux.
De Taddeo is suspected to have initially received the video, which Pavlensky later published on a “political pornographic website” he launched last Wednesday.
Talking to news agency Agence France Presse, he said that the clip was only the first exposé on politicians sexual hypocrisy, adding that Griveaux “constantly brings up family values”, and “says he wants to be the mayor of families and always cites his wife and children as an example”.
“It is a matter of principle,” Pavlensky said. “It is as if someone who campaigns against violence against women beats up his wife every night.”
Griveaux, on the other hand, said that the leaked materials represent “vile attacks” on his privacy. “My family doesn’t deserve it. No one should ever be subjected to such abuses,” he said.
Pavlensky rose to fame in 2013, when he nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones of Red Square in Moscow — an act he saw as a metaphor for political apathy. In 2015, he was arrested again for setting the doors of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on fire, as part of an art protest against the institution’s “terror” tactics.
The activist has been living in France as a political exile since January 2017, following sexual assault allegations in Russia. In October that year, Pavlensky set the doors of the Bank of Paris alight, leading him to be dubbed “the first Gilet Jaune” — a member of France’s ongoing opposition protest movement — by French newspaper Le Monde.