French court frees Russian artist who set Paris bank ablaze

Paris (AFP) –


A Paris court on Thursday freed a radical Russian artist imprisoned since last October after he torched the facade of a French central bank building to protest the outsize role of bankers.

Pyotr Pavlensky fled to France and was granted asylum last year after a series of protest performances got him into hot water back home, including a forced stint in a psychiatric hospital.

He made global headlines in 2013 after nailing his scrotum to Red Square in Moscow, and two years later doused the doors of the FSB secret police headquarters with petrol and set them on fire.

In October, Pavlensky and his partner Oksana Shalygina set the front door of the Bastille branch of France's central bank on fire, with pictures of the two in front of the flames quickly circulating on social media.

"The Bank of France has taken the Place de la Bastille," he said, referring to the square where the French Revolution began in 1789, adding that "bankers have taken the place of monarchs".

Shalygina was freed in January, but the court deemed Pavlensky a flight risk, and he has been held at the Fleury-Merogis prison outside Paris ahead of a trial on January 10.

Shortly before his hearing on Thursday six Femen activists staged a silent demonstration in his support, with inscriptions including "Free Pavlensky" and "Art is not criminal" painted on their bare chests.