Popular anti-war rock band Bi-2, who are visiting Thailand, risk being deported back to Russia, where they could face years in prison for publicly opposing the country’s war against Ukraine.
The seven members of the progressive rock band, who are renowned critics of Vladimir Putin, were arrested on Thursday (January 25) after a concert at a popular beach resort in Phuket after allegedly failing to obtain the proper working papers. Five of them travelled using Russian passports and at least four of the members are reportedly Israeli nationals, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the band’s touring keyboardist Gleb Kolyadin, who is also part of the band Iamthemorning, is currently living in the UK.
The Kremlin are known for keeping an eye on members of the cultural community critical of the war, even if they are not in the country.
Russia has previously singled out the two founders of Bi-2, Aleksandr “Shura” Uman and and Yegor “Lyova” Bortnik, for criticising the country’s military opposition against Ukraine.
On their official Facebook page, they said all their “concerts are held in accordance with local laws and practices.”
After paying fines of 3,000 baht (about £67) each, the band members were sent to the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok, according to Human Rights Watch. As of today (January 29), they are still being held in jail and are likely “to face harsh prosecution and other grave dangers in the hands of Russian authorities” according to Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch.
“Under no circumstances should Bangkok hand them over to Moscow, which will blatantly breach both international and Thai laws,” he added.
Self-exiled Russian opposition politician and a friend of Bi-2, Dmitry Gudkov, told the Russian-language service of Australia’s SBS radio that he believed Moscow was putting pressure on Thailand to have the band deported to Russia.
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Kolyadin’s Iamthemorning bandmate Marjana Semkina appealed on social media for help. She described Bi-2 in her post as having been “inconvenient for (the) Russian government for a while ‘cause they are a very big band and they are very obviously anti-war and anti-Putin so they moved out of the country a while ago, just like Gleb did.”
She added that being deported to Russia would threaten Kolyadin’s chances of remaining in the UK as “deportation on your record never looks good”.
There was no immediate comment from Thailand’s immigration police, according to the Associated Press.