Piotr Pavlenski in 2016 for the presentation of his book, 'Le Cas Pavlenski'. - MARTINI VIRGILIO / SIPA

  • Piotr Pavlenski, a Russian artist who has sought political refuge in France, is due to be brought before a judge on Tuesday for his indictment for the publication of intimate videos of Benjamin Griveaux.
  • Investigators from the forensic police want to understand why he did this.
  • They are also trying to identify the role of his partner, the initial recipient of the videos sent by the ex-candidate LREM to the town hall of Paris, which could also be indicted.

He has been wanted since December 31st. That evening, as the revelers celebrate the transition to the new year, Piotr Pavlenski fled after fighting, armed with a knife, with several guests of an evening to which he was invited by the lawyer Juan Branco in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. But it was only this Saturday that the 35-year-old Russian performer was arrested in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, with his partner, Alexandra de Taddeo, a few hours after the Benjamin Griveaux case was launched. Piotr Pavlenski will be presented this Tuesday to an examining magistrate for his indictment for the publication on the Internet of intimate videos of the candidate LREM at the town hall of Paris.

The confessions of the artist, who claimed publication of these images in the media, did not end the investigation entrusted by the Paris prosecutor's office to the brigade for the suppression of delinquency against the person (BRDP). The police are trying to unravel the roles of each other, identify potential accomplices and, above all, understand the purpose of the dissemination of the images. "In this case as in any other, the confessions do not sign the end of the investigations, recalls a police source. They must be checked and cross-checked to ensure that they are not partial, untruthful or that the person has not been manipulated. And in this case, the list of questions grows as the investigation progresses.

An isolated coup or orchestrated action?

Did the Russian activist, who obtained political refugee status in May 2017, act alone? Many within the presidential majority doubt it. Benjamin Griveaux's lawyer, Richard Malka, does not hide his questions. “What I see is that an individual, obviously quite troubled, claims the facts but that, obviously also, he cannot be the only one involved, given what it costs as an operation, his mastery of the French language, it cannot be all alone ”, estimated this Saturday the lawyer on LCI.

If, according to our information, the artist has exercised his right to silence during a large part of his police custody, the investigators are paying close attention to the role played by his partner Alexandra de Taddeo, also presented to a judge on Tuesday with a view to its indictment. According to several sources, it was to her that Benjamin Griveaux sent the intimate videos, while they were having a relationship in the spring of 2018. This 29-year-old law student is said to have contacted the ex-candidate for mayor of Paris via social networks, before starting a relationship of a few months. This relationship ended when she met the Russian activist in early 2019.

According to Le Parisien, the young woman said during her police custody that she did not know how the images ended up in the possession of Piotr Pavlenski. She also stated that she had not participated in the posting of the video. On the other hand, she considered that it was a way of denouncing the hypocrisy of certain politicians putting forward their family life but behaving differently in private.

Manipulated by the lawyer of "yellow vests"?

According to several sources, Benjamin Griveaux clarified to the investigators that the videos sent on Messenger were programmed to be erased automatically after one minute. If these claims are confirmed, the young woman would have taken care to record the videos before they disappear. An element which would then accredit the track of a premeditated act and gives grain to grind to the supporters of the plot. "In this case, all avenues are being explored, including a collusion of interests in which each protagonist has an interest," said a police source.

Political "work", porn revenge ... or political destabilization. If he has not yet been heard in this case, the investigators are also interested in the role played by activist lawyer Juan Branco, who does not hide his hatred of Emmanuel Macron and the presidential party. This close to the movement of "yellow vests", which had frequented the couple for a few weeks, could he have manipulated Piotr Pavlenski? The prosecution has in any case seized the President of Paris, finding that the young man could not defend Piotr Pavlenski due to a possible collusion. Juan Branco for his part indicated having legally advised the artist before he released the videos while denying having played any role in their publication. However, the man has already used private life in the past to destabilize the presidential party: he had notably revealed the homosexuality of a member of the government.

A Russian method

What if Benjamin Grivaux had been the victim of a Russian conspiracy, as Emmanuel Macron seemed to suggest? Nothing, to date, allows to question Moscow in the Internet distribution of the video that led the candidate LREM at the town hall of Paris to throw in the towel. But the Russian intelligence services have, on numerous occasions, since the end of the cold war, used the "kompromat" to destabilize personalities, including foreigners. A method strangely resembling that used by the artist from Saint Petersburg, which consists of putting up compromising files to bring down a political opponent or force him to collaborate. "Compromise is as old as the world, it is a method used by almost all intelligence services, but the Russians use it a lot", explains Olivier Mas, a former DGSE agent who became a youtuber, author of Spy profession * .

But what interest would the Russians have in attacking the former government spokesperson? Especially at this time of the campaign. "An intelligence service uses this technique for a specific purpose: to break the career of someone annoying or use it to his advantage," said the former French spy. Before adding: "If a service was behind this case, it would have used compromise later. He would have let Griveaux become mayor of Paris then he would come back and say to him: "Now, you are going to work for us". Above all, would Piotr Pavlenski have agreed to work for the regime he has been fighting for years?

* “Spy Profession”, by Olivier Mas, Hoëbeke editions, 205 pages, 16.50 euros


Withdrawal of Benjamin Griveaux: Who is Juan Branco, who presents himself as the lawyer for Piotr Pavlenski?


Withdrawal of Benjamin Griveaux: Piotr Pavlenski and Alexandra de Taddeo presented to an examining magistrate on Tuesday

  • Paris
  • Federal police
  • Revenge porn
  • LREM
  • Russia
  • Investigation
  • Benjamin griveaux