Members of the Russian rock band Bi-2 were allowed to fly to Israel after some of their members risked being deported from Thailand to Russia, the band's lawyer told independent media outlet Mediazona on Jan. 31.
The band was detained by Thai authorities on Jan. 24 after being accused of performing at Phuket Island without work permits, which they attributed to "incorrectly processed documents by the (event) organizers" in a Jan. 28 post on their official Telegram channel.
A statement from the band originally published on Jan. 30 indicated that they were going to be deported to Israel and tickets had already been purchased. The band's frontman Egor "Leva" Bortnik and several other members hold Israeli citizenship.
However, "after a visit from high-ranking diplomats from the Russian Embassy, the group representatives were informed that the deportation decision to Israel had been canceled. The group members declined to communicate with the Russian consul."
Some of the bands' members hold Russian citizenship, and Bortnik has been accused by Russian authorities of being a "foreign agent," meaning that deportation to Russia would put band members at serious risk.
Originally formed in Belarus in 1988, Bi-2 is one of the most famous rock bands in Russia. The band has opposed Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and refused to perform a concert in Omsk back in the spring of 2022 after a banner expressing support for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was hung in the venue.
Bortnik has also been vocal about his criticism of the Russian government on his social media, declaring in response to fan comments on an Instagram post from May 9, 2023, that he will "never return to Russia," Putin and his supporters have "destroyed the country" and "all that Putin's Russia evokes now is disgust and revulsion."
Bi-2's lawyer told Mediazona that Thai police had been repeatedly contacted by Russian consulate staff to "track every step" related to the deportation of the group members.