The Ukrainian theatre director Eugene Lavrenchuk, 39, was arrested in Naples on Dec. 17, 2021.

He had landed in Naples for a transfer between Tel Aviv and Lviv, and registered in a hotel in Capodichino, in the Naples airport area. The registration matched an INTERPOL Red Notice, issued at the Russian Federation’s request.

Lavrencuk had been sentenced in absentia on July 10, 2020, to ten years for financial crimes allegedly perpetrated on Russian soil eight years before.

Details about this and the application of the Red Notice procedure in his case are not publicly available.

In accordance with the INTERPOL alert, the Court of Naples ordered his cautionary “provisional detention” while examining the case for extradition to Russia.

The news of his arrest was divulged yesterday with Lavrenchuk’s family’s permission, after having passed unnoticed in local newspapers in December.


Lavrenchuk was visited on Dec. 31 by the Consul General of Ukraine in Naples, who helped the Ukrainian citizen find a lawyer. The consul reported that he is in good condition.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko added that the “The consuls is in touch with the administration of the penitentiary institution and relatives and keeps the case under special control.”

Extradition in Italy and notable precedents

Passive extradition (from Italy to a foreign state) in Italy is limited by two principles, ex art. 698 Code of Criminal Procedure, both in defense of human rights – Italy does not grant extradition if the convict would face the death penalty, nor when the convict is accused of political crimes, and “there are reasons to believe that” the convict “would be subjected to persecutory or discriminatory acts on grounds of race, religion, sex, nationality, language, political opinions” or “to acts that constitute a violation of one of the fundamental rights of the person”.

The convict has the right to express, in the presence of his lawyer, his consent to extradition (ex art. 701 Code of Criminal Procedure).


Naples, which hosts the NATO Joint Forces Center and holds a strategic maritime and aviation position, has recently become a hotbed for controversial international disputes. Notably, Naples figured in the 2019 extradition of the Russian citizen Aleksandr Khorshunov. Khorshunov was accused of espionage by the USA, where he faced 10 years in prison; he was also accused of “fraud and embezzlement” by the Russian Federation.

The overall complexity of the case took it up through the court system giving the last word to the Minister of Justice of the time, Alfonso Bonafede. Bonafede, having evaluated the case according to the known facts, ultimately decided to extradite Khorshuonv to Russia, privileging the combination of explicit consent to extradition to Russia by the accused, and the principle of country of origin first, rather than the chronological criteria – the US had been the first to request Khorshunov’s extradition.

Should the Lavrenchuk case prove as complicated as Khorshunov’s, this time the choice will fall upon the current Minister of Justice Marta Cartabia, a Catholic academic focused on human rights. Cartabia is the first female judge on the Italian Constitutional Court, and she has been proposed as a possible choice for Prime Minister if Mario Draghi is elected President (the first voting session will be held on Jan. 24, 2022).


The INTERPOL controversy

The Lavrenchuk case draws international attention yet again to the issue of INTERPOL “Red Notice” institute abuse for political or religious persecution purposes.

In 2012, the International Consortium on Investigative Journalism underlined how some countries – among them Russia – have used the Red Notice to “round up political opponents of notorious regimes.”

Similar concerns have been voiced by the Open Dialogue Foundation in 2015.

One renowned case of persecution is that of the Kremlin-opponent Bill Browder arrested in Spain and then released because his Red Notice was no longer valid.

The Lavrenchuk dossier

While the details of the Lavrenchuk conviction and charges brought against him are not publicly available, the Italian authorities will examine thoroughly the full dossier in order to evaluate the extradition request.

What the public does know is that 2020 was not a good year for Lavrenchuk.

Lavrencuk had been sentenced in absentia on July 10, 2020, to ten years for financial crimes allegedly perpetrated on Russian soil eight years before.

In December 2020, he was attacked and severely beaten up outside the Odesa Theatre. He related the whole story of the attack in March 2021 after gathering evidence to back up his claim.


Since 2014, Lavrenchuk has been successfully working in Poland, Israel and Ukraine.

Before that, he was director of the Polish Theater in Moscow.  He left the Russian Federation in protest following its annexation of Crimea that year.

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