Russian artist questioned in French sex-video scandal

Russian artist questioned in French sex-video scandal

A Russian artist and his partner are being detained over a sex video leak that ended President Emmanuel Macron’s choice in the Paris mayoral race.

Pyotr Pavlensky (pictured) has claimed responsibility for posting a sex video that ended Benjamin Griveaux’s mayoral bid. Griveaux resigned as a junior minister in 2019 to take part in the mayoral race in March. Polls put him in third place behind incumbent Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo and centre-right challenger Rachida Dati.

The video showed Griveaux, 42, of Macron’s La République en Marche party and Alexandra de Taddeo, a Russian-speaking, 29-year-old student. De Taddeo, who is in a relationship with Pavlensky, is also being questioned. Griveaux stepped down on Friday, denting the chances of Macron’s party winning control of Paris in the March council election.

The France government said it was unlikely that the video leak was an independent action by the artist, who was granted political asylum in France in 2017. “He was without doubt assisted,” said Sibeth Ndiaye, a French government spokeswoman. “I am not sure that he is the central character in this affair.”

Setting up the website and editing the video was beyond Pavlensky’s skills, she added. 

Shortly after the scandal broke, Macron attacked Russia for its efforts to destabilise France. “The media-technology system is mutating so fast that we no longer have the antibodies to protect democracy,” he told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. 

France blamed Russia for the hacking of Macron’s campaign communications ahead of the May 2017 election. Macron has repeatedly accused Russia of interference through social media and cyber assaults.

Russian and Soviet spy agencies have long used compromising sexual material, “kompromat”, to discredit or blackmail public figures. 

Richard Malka, Griveaux’s lawyer, alleged that Pavlensky was not acting alone. “It’s very worrying. We are faced with destabilisation which reminds me of old methods that were used in eastern Europe,” he told the media.

Pavlensky claims he was exposing Griveaux’s hypocrisy as a married man. 

De Taddeo told the authorities she befriended Griveaux online in early 2018 but denies being encouraged to trap him, according to French media reports. De Taddeo is an active member of radical leftist anti-establishment groups.

Also under the official spotlight is Juan Branco, a lawyer who knows Pavlensky and de Taddeo and is prominent in the gilet jaunes, “yellow vest”, protest movement.



Pyotr Pavlensky. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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