February 07, 2024

Bi-2 Members Released from Thai Detention


Bi-2 Members Released from Thai Detention
Members of Bi-2. Schekinov Alexey Victorovich, Wikimedia Commons. 

Seven musicians from the Russian-Belarisian alt rock group Bi-2 were detained on January 28 after a concert in Phuket, on charges that they had incorrectly filed visa and migration documents.

The musicians, who have taken a public anti-war stance since the beginning of Russia's War on Ukraine, subsequently refused to meet with the Russian Foreign Consul. Deportation back to Russia could mean prosecution for their anti-war statements. 

After a week in detention, group members were allowed to depart Thailand for Israel, where lead singer Yegor Bortnik resides. Israeli Foreign Minister Israeli Katz said his office intervened to get the musicians released. The Russian consul temporarily thwarted Israel's move, arguing that the members of the group did not have Israeli citizenship and should be handed over to Russian officials. On January 29, Human Rights Watch called upon the Thai government not to extradite any member of Bi-2 to Russia

The concerns were certainly valid. Before the musicians' release, State Duma member Andrei Lugovoy wrote on Telegram: "Let [Bi-2] get ready: soon they will be playing and singing on spoons and metal plates, tap dancing in front of their cellmates. Personally, I would watch it with great pleasure."

But, for now at least, Bi-2 seems to be safe in Israel.

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