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Italy arrests Ukrainian theater director on demand of Russia in “fabricated” case

After the premiere of La Traviata, 2019 / Photo: Odesa Opera / Facebook
Edited by: Alya Shandra

On 17 December 2021, Naples law enforcement officers arrested 39-year-old Yevhen Lavrenchuk, a Ukrainian theater director and Honored Artist of Ukraine, upon Moscow’s request for his extradition to INTERPOL, as reported in the Free Eugene Lavrenchuk! Facebook group. This happened during his flight from Tel Aviv to Lviv, with a stop in Naples.

While Italy is considering the request, Mr. Lavrenchuk will stay in a remand center. This may take up to 60 days.

According to Russian authorities, Lavrenchuk committed a financial criminal offense in the country eight years ago. Why Italian law enforcers arrested the Ukrainian film director just now and why procedural materials of his case are missing remains unknown.

Russian media are silent about any “financial violations” that could incriminate Lavrenchuk. He himself noted that he did not take “a penny of money” for performances from the state of Russia.

There was, however, a trial after he staged the play Anna Karenina at the Tomsk Theater for Young Spectators in 2011. Namely, in 2011, the Tomsk city council of elders accused Lavrenchuk of “promoting homosexuality” in his performances “Dragon” and “Anna Karenina” in the Tomsk Youth Theatre, demanding to ban the performance and expel the director, who was “actively promoting non-traditional sexual relations by using the theater stage.”

In 2013, Lavrenchuk filed a lawsuit against the Tomsk city administration and the city council of elders for the protection of honor and dignity. The Tomsk Soviet District Court rejected Lavrenchuk’s claim. The director argued that the scandal occurred because of his idea to give the role of Alexei Karenin to a non-professional actor — the head of the department of culture of the government of the Tomsk Oblast, Andrei Kuzichkin, who later fell out of favor with the local authorities.

As Yevhen Lavrenchuk’s family members and close circle claim, the case is fabricated. His mother Iryna Lavrenchuk says this is political persecution related to Yevhen’s pro-Ukrainian views, his stance that Crimea is a part of Ukraine, not Russia.

Yevhen Lavrenchuk worked in Russia for some time and did not conceal his pro-Ukrainian views. Moreover, he refused Russian citizenship. In Russia, the Ukrainian film director established the Polish Theater in Moscow in 2004 and Schools of acting and directing. With the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine in 2014, the theater director left Russia and moved to Ukraine. Lavrenchuk has taught acting and directing in Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, and Israel.


Edited by: Alya Shandra
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