Russian dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who sought asylum in Paris after fleeing Russia in 2017, has unexpectedly become a major player in the French city’s mayoral race. According to the New York Times, Pavlensky leaked sex videos involving Benjamin Griveaux of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République En Marche, on social media to expose “political hypocrisy.” Griveaux withdrew from the race on Friday, shortly after the material began circulating. The scandal led to French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn’s announcement that she would be taking Griveaux’s place as the party’s candidate.
Last week, the performance artist created a website for “political porn” where he posted the explicit videos, which have since been taken down by the authorities. Pavlensky has come under fire for the move with many questioning his motives. People have also spoken out in defense of Griveaux’s right to privacy. Pavlensky, who was originally detained over his role in a brawl that took place on December 31, and his girlfriend, have been questioned by the police over the matter, but have not been charged.
The thirty-five-year-old activist told the Libération newspaper that he singled out Griveaux because “he is someone who constantly brings up family values, who says he wants to be the mayor of families and always cites his wife and children as an example. But he is doing the opposite.”
If prosecuted, Pavlensky could face up to two years in prison and a heavy fine for invasion of privacy and the dissemination of sexual content without the participants’ consent. The artist claims he received the video from a source who had a consensual relationship with Griveaux. While some French lawmakers are also calling for the country to revoke his asylum, Pavlensky’s lawyer said if his asylum is revoked he will resettle in another European country.
Pavlensky, who first gained notoriety when he nailed his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square in 2013, also set the door of the Banque of France on the Place de la Bastille square in central Paris on fire in October 2017. At the time, the artist declared that the banks replaced the monarchy in France. He spent a year in jail in pre-trial detention and was given a two-year suspended sentence. He was also fined roughly $25,000.