Yevhen (Eugene) Lavrenchuk, 39, was detained in Naples on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia during a stopover in the city on 17 December.
Russia is seeking his extradition for financial crimes allegedly committed when he was director of the Polish Theatre in Moscow. Lavrenchuk left Russia for Ukraine in 2014 in protest at Russia’s annexation of Crimea that year.
Interpol has recognized that the Russian Federation is persecuting Ukrainian theater director Yevhen Lavrenchuk for political reasons
The information about the detention of Yevhen Lavrenchuk, Ukrainian theater director, Shevchenko National Prize nominee, former chief director of the Odesa Opera and Ballet Theater, rector of the First Ukrainian School of Theater and Cinema, in Italy appeared on social media on January 3. A publication on the Free Eugene Lavrenchuk group said that Russia demanded the extradition of the Ukrainian citizen, accusing him of financial impropriety he had allegedly committed in Russia 8 years ago.
Lavrenchuk told the court of appeal in Naples that he was being persecuted by Russia for publicly voicing his dissent. He claimed the persecution led to him being beaten up outside the Odessa opera and ballet theatre, where he was a director, in December 2020. He has refused extradition, saying that he feared being “exposed to discrimination”.
According to the press service of the Ombudsman’s Office, the National Police of Ukraine appealed to Interpol to clarify the legality of the use of the Interpol information system by the Russian Federation, in particular, by abusing Interpol tools and capabilities in the prosecution of Lavrenchuk.
The Ombudsman’s Office also noted that during the court session in Naples on January 27, Lavrenchuk’s lawyers filed a petition for the cancellation of house arrest and granting him permission to travel to Ukraine, since there are no grounds for further detention in connection with the removal of Interpol statements about him from the registers. The Naples City Court refused to satisfy the claims, explaining that the process of verifying the arguments of the Russian Federation, which sent the extradition materials, has already begun in court. Therefore, at this stage it is impossible to terminate the consideration, since a court decision must be made.
The court granted a deadline of 30 days, during which the prosecutor’s office of Naples should study the materials received from the Russian Federation and inform about its vision of this issue: whether there are grounds for the extradition of Lavrenchuk to Russia. After that, the court will make an appropriate decision.