Ukrainian director Lavrenchuk’s attorney says his client feels ‘confident’ Russian extradition case will fail

8 January 2022, 01:13 PM

Ukrainian theater director Eugene Lavrenchuk is feeling “decisive” and very “confident” that a request issued by Russia for his extradition from Italy will fail, his attorney, Alfonso Tatarano, said during an interview with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty on Jan. 8.

Lavrenchuk has been in custody in Naples since Dec. 17, after being detained by the Italian authorities at the request of Russia, which has charged him with an alleged financial crime.

The 39-year-old Lavrenchuk is a Ukrainian theater director, a Shevchenko prize nominee, the former head director of Odesa Opera and Ballet Theatre, and the rector of Eugene Lavrenchuk First Ukrainian Theatre and Cinema School.

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Tatarano told RFE/RL that Lavrenchuk had asked him to reassure his loved ones that he was well.

“The news of the wave of international support really helped to cheer him up, if, of course, one can feel at all cheerful in this situation,” said Tatarano.

According to Tatarano, Lavrenchuk finds his detention conditions satisfactory. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, for the first few days he was held in an isolated part of the detention facility. Now he has been transferred to a different cell in Poggioreale, a detention facility in Naples.

“Everyone held there is awaiting their court sentence – there are no convicts there,” said Tatarano.

Lavrenchuk is expecting permission from the prison authorities to make a phone call to his loved ones, said the attorney, who added that Moscow must now take the next step to advance the case. He is also looking into the possibility of having the Ukrainian director placed under house arrest, instead of detention.

Lavrenchuk’s arrest came during a stop-over as he was flying from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv to Tel Aviv in Israel. The arrest was triggered by “an international request made by Russia,” his attorney said.

“Naples Court of Appeal ruled the arrest to be legitimate,” Tatarano said. “We are now awaiting more case materials from Russia. Moscow needs to send their extradition request with a detailed explanation of the reasons. This information will later be studied by the Prosecutor General at Naples Court of Appeal. The court will then decide whether the extradition request should be granted or denied. I have not yet been informed if the case details were sent by Russia.”

Once the Italian court receives the documents, it will not “take into consideration the details of Lavrenchuk’s case in Moscow. The Naples Court of Appeals will only have to review the technicalities of Moscow’s court proceedings,” explained Tatarano.

The date of the next court session in Lavrenchuk’s case is still unknown. Tatarano claimed that the case had some “complexity”, and that its timeline is still unclear.

“I’m hopeful that the Court of Appeal will be able to review the case within a suitable time frame, given the public's interest in the case,” the attorney said. “The case is being studied by a qualified court department specialized in international arrest warrants. I am sure the highly experienced judges will approach the case with great care and precision.”

Tatarano said the Italian court system usually provides all the necessary guarantees to a person who claims to be prosecuted for political reasons, and that it can also turn down the extradition request.

The Lviv-born Lavrenchuk studied theater in Moscow and later founded a Polish theater there. When the war in Donbas broke out in 2014, Lavrenchuk, renowned for his anti-Putin stance, returned to Ukraine.

The director says the current Russian charges against him are politically motivated.

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