39-year-old Yevhen Lavrenchuk is a well-known theater director who made his directorial debut at the age of 16.
His productions brough him recognition and awards from the governments of Poland and Israel.
Lavrenchuk was traveling to to Lviv for an event commemorting his mentor Roman Viktiuk and was detained at the stopover in Naples on the request of Russia that allegedly came through Interpol.
In her comments to Radio Free Europe, Lavrenchuk’s mother argued her son is facing prosecution over his vocal stand over Russian actions in Crimea and Donbas.
During his work in Russia in the 2010s, he faced accusations over ‘gay propaganda’ in his productions and had his theatrical company production called off on different pretexts, which eventually made him leave Russia and move to Europe where he taught acting and directed performances in Poland, Germany, Lithuania and Israel. The art director was residing in Israel.
According to Russian media reports, Lavrenchuk was indicted on embezzlement charges and in 2020, the Moscow court issued a warrant for his arrest in absentia. The details of his criminal case though remain vague and scant.
The detention of Lavrenchuk sparked a public outcry and led to the establishment of a Facebook support group ‘Free Eugene Lavrenchuk’.
His arrest also prompted the swift response from Ukrainian officials. Ombudsperson Liudmyla Denisova raised questions over legitimacy of the detention calling on Italian authorities to reconsider the case and prevent his extradition to Russia.