Thailand: authorities must not deport Russian rock band at risk of persecution
Six members of Bi-2 remain in detention in Phuket
The band has been subjected to a state-backed smear campaign in Russia for their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
‘If deported to Russia they face a real risk of arbitrary detention’ - Denis Krivosheev
Responding to news that the Thai authorities are considering deporting members of the Bi-2 rock band to Russia following their detention in Thailand - reportedly under alleged pressure from Russian diplomats - Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director, said:
“It is imperative that the Thai authorities adhere to the principles of non-refoulement, ensuring that the musicians from Bi-2 rock band are not forcibly returned to Russia where they are at serious risk of persecution for their anti-war position.
“The Bi-2 members - known for their outspoken stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - have previously been subjected to a state-backed smear campaign.
“Their concerts were cancelled and one of the band members was designated by the Russian authorities a ‘foreign agent’.
“If deported to Russia they face a real risk of arbitrary detention under administrative proceedings and unfounded criminal prosecution, which could lead to lengthy imprisonment.
“The Thai authorities must uphold their international obligations and allow the departure of the Bi-2 band members to a safe country.”
Labelled ‘foreign agents’
The seven members of Bi-2 were detained in Phuket on 25 January for performing concerts without authorisation in contravention of Thailand’s immigration legislation. They were then transferred to an immigration detention centre where, according to reports, they are held in a shared cell with 80 other people. Four Bi-2 members - including Yegor Bortnik and Aleksandr Uman - hold dual citizenships of Russia and other countries, including Israel. Initially, Thailand planned to deport them to Israel on 29 January, but reversed this after alleged Russian intervention. On 30 January, only Bortnik was permitted to leave for Israel, while the others remain in detention.
The band’s opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to Bortnik being labelled a “foreign agent” under Russia’s repressive laws. A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused Bi-2 of “financing terrorism”, and “Veterans of Russia,” a pro-government NGO, has demanded their prosecution for “promoting terrorist activities”, as per Article 205.1 of the country’s criminal code.