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Wherever they are: The band is on route to Israel

Members of Bi-2 band. Wikipedia, S.A. Victorovich

On Wednesday night, seven members of the Israeli-Australian B-2 band were released from custody in Thailand and left to Israel. This was due to intensive diplomatic work by the Israeli Foreign Ministry with the Thai authorities. But the story behind the arrest of the seven revolves around another country: Russia.

The rock band B-2, which is mostly composed of Israelis (four of the seven members in the group, including the main trio), is less known in Israel itself, but is a big hit for fans of the genre around the world. The band was formed in the Soviet Union in the late 80s, and was temporarily disbanded when some members immigrated to Israel after the USSR broke up and the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 90s. A few years later, the band reunited in Australia and returned to music, gaining popularity. At the same time, the band began to become more politically active, especially against Putin, the Russian president, in protest of his tyrannical actions. This put them on the sight of the Russian regime (in a way that proved to a great extent their right), which issued arrest warrants against them.

The incident got complicated last week when the band members were arrested in Thailand, due to the lack of proper licenses for performing. The band was about to be released quickly, but at that point Russia entered the picture and demanded that the Thai government turn over members of the wanted group to be extradited, pointing to Thai law defining the deportation of detainees to the country from which they came, and that most members of the band used Russian passports. Extradition to Russia would have been an unpleasant experience for the band, to say the least – when we see the attitude and punishment toward oppositional elements in the country.

At this stage, the Israeli Foreign Ministry intervened in order to save the band. Heavy pressure was exerted on Thailand, which eventually overcame Russian pressure and led to the release of all members of the band to Israel (including those who are not Israeli citizens). “Anyone who saves a single life, it is as if he saved a whole world,” concluded Minister Yisrael Katz with the words of the Sages. Indeed, a beautiful illustration of the Israeli concern for its citizens, which is currently being tested.

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