PUBLISHED : 1 Feb 2024 at 12:44
Members of a Russian rock band opposed to the Ukraine war have left Thailand for Israel a week after the authorities threatened to deport them back to Moscow for working at the resort island of Phuket without a permit, the band and the Royal Thai Police said on Thursday.
Human rights activists had warned that the seven members of the self-exiled rock band Bi-2 would face harsh punishment if they were sent to Russia.
Several band members, however, hold both Russian and Israeli citizenship, and the group had been based in Israel in the 1990s. Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn said the band requested to be deported to Israel.
The band were fined for working without a permit, he added.
“All of them travelled to Israel around 11 pm last night,” Pol Gen Surachate told Reuters.
The band also said on its Facebook page that all members had left Thailand and were heading to Tel Aviv.
Bi-2 is known for its condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s Justice Ministry labelled lead singer Igor Bortnick a “foreign agent” after he criticised President Vladimir Putin online last year.
Earlier this week, Thai immigration officials said the band could choose to be deported to another destination if they felt unsafe to return to Russia.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, welcomed the decision to send the band to Israel.
“Human rights concerns won out in Thailand’s to let all the Bi-2 band members travel to the safety of Israel,” he said.