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Russian band flees to Israel amid Thai deportation threat

Russia's self-exiled band has been critical of Moscow's war on Ukraine

Russia's self-exiled band has been critical of Moscow's war on Ukraine

A Russian dissident band has flown from Thailand for Israel, after Thai authorities briefly detained them and threatened to deport them back to Moscow over working without a correct permit.

The Bi-2 band has previously criticized Russia's war on Ukraine, refusing to play at a Russian venue with banners supporting the war. Its lead singer Igor Bortnik also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin last year.

All seven members of the self-exiled band had safely left Thailand en route to Tel Aviv, according to a post on the group's Facebook page.

Several members hold dual Russian and Israeli citizenship, and the band had been based in Israel in the 1990s.

Why was the band threatened with deportation?

Last week, the band was held in Thailand after a gig in the island of Phuket. Thai officials accused them of performing without a work permit. They were transferred to an immigration detention center in Bangkok.

Their concert organizers said all the necessary permits were obtained, but the band had been mistakenly issued tourist visas.

Several human rights activists warned of the persecution the band could have faced if deported back to Moscow.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch (HRW) argued that "Thailand is vulnerable to effective manipulation by larger states pursuing transnational repression."

"Human rights concerns won out in Thailand's decision to let all the Bi-2 band members travel to the safety of Israel," he added.

Thai immigration officials had expressed their readiness earlier this week to deport the band to another destination if they felt unsafe to return to Russia.

rmt/rt (AFP, Reuters)