Petr Pavlensky: Russian who released Macron ally sex video arrested

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Russian protest artist, Petr Pavlensky, 14 February 2020Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Petr Pavlensky claims he was exposing hypocrisy

French police have arrested a Russian activist artist behind the release of a sex video that brought down a political ally of President Emmanuel Macron.

Petr Pavlensky was detained in Paris, French media report.

The video scuppered Benjamin Griveaux's candidacy for mayor of Paris. Its release was widely condemned.

A little-known website alleged that Mr Griveaux had exchanged intimate mobile phone messages with a young woman and sent her the video.

Mr Pavlensky, who sought asylum from Russia in 2017, said he had posted the video, showing a man involved in a sexual act, online.

The distribution of the clip, which spread quickly across social media on Thursday, brought condemnation from across the political spectrum.

The current Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said people's private lives should be respected.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon condemned the video's release as "odious", while far-right leader Marine Le Pen suggested Mr Griveaux should not have quit.

Judicial sources quoted by French media said the arrest of Mr Pavlensky was not connected with the video. He was being investigated over an alleged brawl in Paris on 31 December involving "wilful violence with a weapon".

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Griveaux described the attack on him as abuse

Mr Pavlensky says he posted the video to expose what he sees as the politician's hypocrisy.

Mr Griveaux, who is married with children and was once a government spokesman, condemned the distribution of the video as he withdrew his candidacy on Friday.

"My family does not deserve this. No-one should ever be subjected to such abuse," he said.

On Saturday, Mr Griveaux reportedly filed an "invasion of privacy" complaint with the police, and an investigation was opened by the Paris prosecutor's office, Agence France-Presse reported.

Who is Petr Pavlensky?

He first gained notoriety by nailing his scrotum to Moscow's Red Square in 2013. He fled Russia and sought asylum in France when he was accused by the authorities of a sexual assault that he denied.

He served seven months in jail for setting the front door of the FSB intelligence agency on fire in Moscow and later caused minor damage to a Banque de France branch by setting that alight.

Media caption,

Pyotr Pavlensky set fire to the door of the FSB, Russia's security service

Before his arrest, he told French news channel LCI that Mr Griveaux was only the first politician that he would target, saying he would carry on fighting the "propaganda and puritanism of politicians".

French media have traditionally avoided prying into the private lives of people in public life and a number of figures referred distastefully to the "Americanisation" of politics.