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Russian actor cuts his wrists on theater stage in disturbing protest

A Russian stage actor cut his wrists in front of a live audience in a graphic protest against the theater’s management.

Artur Shuvalov stood at the front of the stage during curtain call with other members of the cast following a performance in the city of Ulan-Ude, eastern Siberia.

He spoke to the crowd detailing how the theater company had allegedly been trying to get him to quit his job by bullying him and withholding his pay.

But the final straw came when on that same day, theater bosses fired his wife, also a stage actress. Shuvalov said management “are responsible for my death” as he began to cut his raised right arm.

Gasps of shock could be heard from the audience and some of his fellow cast turned away in horror, while others rushed to drag him off stage.

A video of the incident was uploaded to the social media network Baza.

“Throughout the year they have tried to fire me from the theater, humiliate me, deprive me of work and money. Today they signed a statement, they fired my wife Svetlana Polyanskaya,” Shuvalov said.

“I don’t want to put up with it. But I have no more strength and no more choice. I don’t want to hear that artists are ‘representatives of the oldest professions’. And I believe that our audience is worthy of smart direction, and not as our artistic director says.

“Please forgive me again. I’m tired. I have no more choice. I want to say just one thing: Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Dyachenko [artistic director]Natalya Nikolaevna Svetozarova [theater director]these people are to blame for my death.”

Shuvalov, who apparently also has cancer, was taken to hospital but did not suffer any serious injuries.

In 2022, the theater’s then-artistic director, Sergei Levitsky, was fired for opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The actors protested by removing a pro-war poster outside the theater and complaining about the new artistic director, Dyachenko.

Upon his appointment, Dyachenko vowed to stage productions that were “simpler and more understandable to ordinary people” during a media interview.

There has been a crackdown on anti-war sentiments in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Shortly after its invasion the country introduced new censorship laws preventing “discrediting Russian armed forces.” These included not being allowed to display yellow and blue (the colors of the Ukraine flag), calling the occupation a “war” or referring to the need for peace, among other rules. Penalties for Russians breaking the law range from fines to 15 years imprisonment.

A number of leading figures in the arts world lost their jobs after speaking out against the war.

Maria Revyakina, director of the esteemed State Theater of Nations and laureate of the State Prize of Russia, was standing down from her role after 10 years for making an anti-war comment on Facebook.

“We call on everyone on whom it depends to stop the armed actions, withdraw troops and sit down at the negotiating table. We call for the preservation of the highest value – human life,” she wrote on February 26, 2022.

That post was part of an open letter signed by a number of prominent arts leaders including general director of the Bolshoi Theater, Vladimir Urin and was released a day after Metropolitan Opera cut ties with artists who support Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We now speak not only as cultural figures, but as ordinary people, citizens of our country, our homeland. Among us are the children and grandchildren of those who fought in the Great Patriotic War, witnesses and participants of that war,” the letter read.

“Each of us lives a genetic memory of war. We don’t want a new war, we don’t want people to die. The past 20th century has brought too much grief and suffering to humanity. We want to believe that the 21st century will become a century of hope, openness, dialogue, a century of human conversation, a century of love, compassion, and mercy.

“We call on everyone on whom it depends, all sides of the conflict, to stop the armed action, and to sit at the table for negotiations. We call for the preservation of the highest value – human life.”

A Russian stage actor cut his wrists in front of a live audience in a graphic protest against the theater’s management.

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