Ukrainian theater director Lavrenchuk detained in Italy at Russia’s request

3 January 2022, 06:12 PM

The renowned Ukrainian theater director Eugene Lavrenchuk was detained in Naples and taken into custody on Dec. 17 on the basis of an extradition request issued by Russia, the Free Eugene Lavrenchuk Facebook group said in a post on Jan. 3.

“I would like to inform all our friends that Eugene Lavrenchuk has been in custody in Italy since Dec. 17,”  posted group administrator Marianna Giudice-Paliy.

“Russia has issued a request for his extradition,” she added.

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

He first studied theater in Moscow, and later founded a Polish theater there. When hostilities broke out between Russia and Ukraine in the Donbas in 2014, Lavrenchuk, known for his anti-Putin stance, returned to Ukraine.

On Dec. 15, Lavrenchuk posted on Facebook that he was flying to Lviv from Tel Aviv via Naples. Giudice-Paliy says that, according to the Russian authorities, Lavrenchuk allegedly committed some unspecified “financial crime" in Russia eight years ago. Giudice-Paliy added that the Italian authorities were currently studying the case materials provided by Russia.

The Italian authorities’ findings have not been released.

The director’s family has commented publicly, saying that they believe the charges to have been fabricated, and the case to be politically motivated. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko confirmed Lavrenchuk’s detention during an interview with NV.

Nikolenko said that Ukraine’s General Consulate in Naples has been providing consular assistance to Lavrenchuk since his arrest on Dec. 17, and that Lavrenchuk has been provided with legal representation.

“The Naples city court ruled that Lavrenchuk would be kept in custody until the Italian authorities finished studying the extradition request,” Nikolenko said. “At the moment the consul and Lavrenchuk’s lawyer are liaising with Italian law enforcement to discover the reasons for Lavrenchuk’s arrest and to defend his legal interests.”

Nikolenko told NV that the Lavrenchuk is in good health and his detention conditions are satisfactory.

Nikolenko also said that the Ukrainian consulate was in touch with both the administration of the detention facility and Lavrenchuk’s family, and was keeping an eye on developments.

Ukraine’s former Deputy Culture and Information Policy Minister Iryna Podoliak said that Lavrenchuk could only be kept in custody for up to 60 days and could be released if “Russia has not framed him.” Podoliak also added that Lavrenchuk’s lawyer recommended collecting letters of support from influential individuals and organizations in Ukraine, and forwarding them to the director’s mother, Iryna Lavrenchuk.

“Nothing coming from Russia can be trusted,” Podoliak wrote in a post on Facebook.

“Eugene is in dire need of our support as a Ukrainian citizen, a director and an artist. We need to make sure he is returned to Ukraine because there is a high risk he may be transported to Russia.”

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