Jailbreak: Banksy [and me] help free Russian Art Group Voina

Dick captured by KGB – An enormous penis on a drawbridge in St Petersburg. It is opposite city headquarters of the FSB (ex-KGB)

Last December I did an interview with the Russian art group Voina, where two of the members; Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolaev answered my questions from a St Petersburg Jail.  Click here for my interview. After originally refused bail, on February 24th Judge Tarasov of Dzerzhinsky District Court ordered the release of Oleg and Leonid. Bail money was donated by the popular street artist and Academy Award nominee Banksy, which is somewhere in the region of $10,000 for each artist. However the case against Oleg and Leonid for “hooliganism motivated by hatred or hostility towards a social group” still stands and can carry up to 7 years each in jail. The Social group in question is the Russian police force. To read more on this case look here.

After the release I got an email from one of the members with thanks:

“Dear friends,
the Voina Group would like to thank you all for your support and help. Without your media coverage Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev wouldn’t have any chance to be released. Today is their second day at large. But the charges against the artists still stand. The trial will be held soon.

Again we can’t thank you enough for your every effort. Best regards…”

However on the 3rd of March the Voina collective were in trouble again. In St Petersburg around 5 p.m., Oleg Vorotnikov, Leonid Nikolayev and Natalia Sokol with her little baby Kasper were on their way from a press conference when they were allegedly attacked by seven plainclothes police officers. Vorotnikov received bruises; Sokol got a serious hand injury and Nikolayev a head injury. Sokol’s two year old child also suffered. See images below.

The artist’s attorney Dmitry Dinze said:

Seven plainclothes men followed the Voina Group. Artists made some pics of them. And those people shouting out loud “We are from the Criminal Investigation Department!” started beating the guys. They waved their IDs and kicked the artists

Oleg Vorotnikov explained his version of the events:

They waved their IDs but we couldn’t examine them. They pushed baby pram away and hit Kasper against his face causing a bruise on his left chick. Two others knocked Kozlyenok down into the paddle and started kicking her. They injured her hand very seriously. I managed to free myself from the officers who were holding me and covered Kozlyenok with my body. The blows rained against my back and head. Kozlyenok’s face was already bashed. What’s more when they dragged her by hair, they pulled out one of her braids. The officers were trying to take away a camera from her. But she held it tightly. Activist Lyubka seized one of the officers and he bit her hand…

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