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Bi-2 saved from deportation to Russia and allowed refuge in Israel

Popular anti-war rock band Bi-2 have been released from jail in Thailand, where they were facing deportation to Russia.

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.

Kolyadin’s Iamthemorning colleague Marjana Semkina took to her Facebook page yesterday (January 31) to reveal that all members of Bi-2 along with Kolyadin have been released. “Guys!!! They got out!!! Safely on a plane to Israel. Can’t wait to have him back in the UK,” began her post.

She continued: “We’re still a little worried about potential issues at the Israeli border but surely everything should be fine after the story got so crazy big in international news. I also know that UK authorities were on site yesterday. Thank you all SO MUCH for your help, posts, emails, sharing the petition and just moral support. I for one really needed it. I’ll keep you updated.”

The announcement of the band’s release came hours after Russian politician Andrei Lugovoy, a member of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, referred to the band as “scum” due their open criticism of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine (per Loudwire).

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. On January 29 the band were being held in jail and were 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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