Russian Rock Band Critical of Ukraine Conflict at Risk of Deportation in Thailand

Russian Rock Band Critical of Ukraine Conflict at Risk of Deportation in Thailand

Dissident Russian-Belarusian rock band, Bi-2, known for their criticism of Moscow’s war in Ukraine, has been detained in Thailand for performing without work permits. There are growing calls to prevent their deportation to Russia, as the group may face persecution if returned. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has cited concerns about the band being accused of “sponsoring terrorism” by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bi-2’s lead singer, Yegor Bortnik, has reportedly left Thailand, while the rest of the group remains in cramped detention. The detained musicians include both Russian citizens and dual nationals from Russia, Israel, and Australia. Thai officials are considering their deportation, with the destination yet to be determined. VPI Event, the concert organizer, claims to have obtained the necessary permits but admits the band was given tourist visas in error. HRW emphasizes Thailand’s obligation not to forcibly return individuals who face potential torture in their home country. The organization also highlights the increasing use of transnational repression by Russian authorities to target activists and critics abroad. Bi-2, a popular band in Russia, had several concerts canceled in 2022 after they refused to perform at a venue supporting the war in Ukraine. One of the band’s founders has openly criticized the Putin government and accused it of destroying Russia. Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has urged Thailand and democratic nations to find a solution to ensure the band’s freedom. Bi-2 has a significant online following, with over one million subscribers on YouTube and 376,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.


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