Oleg Vorotnikov, the founder of the Russian art collective Voina, could be extradited to Russia following his arrest in Venice after a violent fight with local anarchists. If deported back to his home country, he risks incarceration in a penal colony, like ex-Voina member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot.
According to Voina's Facebook page, Vorotnikov will be released on bail after more than a week in jail. The activist artist is now waiting to hear if he will be deported back to Russia, where he has an outstanding Interpol warrant.
An official statement on the Voina website reads: "We know that Oleg and his family were forced to abandon their homeland because of political persecution, because the Russian government arrested several members of Voina, not liking the message of freedom expressed through their art. Russia is in no way new to the repression of art and freedom of speech. Of course Oleg will face no fair trial if sent back home."
Vorotnikov fled Russia with his wife, fellow Voina member Natalia Sokol, and their children Kasper and Mama, ending up in a Venice squat occupied by a local anarchist group. On 27th July, a fight broke out when Vorotnikov and Sokol were barred entry to the squat. In a statement on Facebook, Sokol says that Vorotnikov had to be transported to hospital to receive thirty stitches after they were attacked. The squatters have disputed this, claiming that Vorotnikov threatened them with an axe after being locked out of the building.
Voina attracted global attention for politically-charged performance art stunts that took aim at the Russian authorities. Its previous pranks included drawing a sixty-metre high penis on a bridge facing the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (formerly known as the KGB). Members of the group also laser projected a 12-storey high skull and crossbones symbol on the wall of Moscow's White House building, the official headquarters of the Russian Federation government.
According to the collective’s website, the group are the subject of a minimum of 20 criminal investigations. Vorotnikov has previously spent four months in prison with fellow Voina member Leonid Nikolayev after being arrested for overturning police cars in St Petersburg in protest against corruption. Street artist Banksy paid 300,000 rubles ($8,283) to post bail for each artist.
Over a thousand people have signed a Change.org petition calling for Italian authorities not to deport Vorotnikov back to Russia.
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