Siberian Actor Flees Russia After Slashing Wrists On Stage

An actor from a theater in Russia’s Siberian region of Buryatia, who in March slit his wrists while on stage to protest the firing of the company's artistic director over his stance against Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, has left the country.

Artur Shuvalov of the Russian Drama Theater in Buryatia's capital, Ulan-Ude, on May 2 confirmed to RFE/RL reports saying that he left Russia fearing for his safety.

Shuvalov said he is currently in an unspecified post-Soviet nation and plans to move to another country after he manages to arrange the trip of his wife and his child to his current location.

On March 29, Shuvalov cut his wrists with a knife at the end of a play in front of a live audience, saying he and his colleagues have been under pressure for a year over their attempts to get back the theater's artistic director, Sergei Levitsky, who was fired last year for openly condemning Russia's ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Shuvalov's wife, Svetlana Polyanskaya, who worked as an actress at the same theater, resigned in March after coming under constant pressure from management for her stance on Levitsky's reinstatement.

Since Levitsky was fired, the theater's actors have demanded local authorities reinstate him and have conducted different forms of protests, including the removal of the symbols of Russia's aggression against Ukraine from the theater's facade and raising awareness of the situation in local media.

Shuvalov told RFE/RL that he decided to flee Russia after sources informed him that authorities planned to forcibly hospitalize him for a so-called assessment of his psychiatric stability.

"I took the threat of being placed in a psychiatric clinic very seriously...given how often punitive psychiatric incarceration is being used these days against activists, and also remembering Soviet-time dissidents who were kept in psychiatric clinics for years," Shuvalov said, adding he does not support Russia's "current regime and its decision to start the war" against Ukraine.

"It does not mean that I do not like Russia, Buryatia.... As soon as the regime changes, I will come back," Shuvalov said.