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Russian artist and girlfriend held over release of sex video linked to Paris mayoral candidate

 A Russian dissident artist who published screenshots of sexual images that forced a Paris mayoral candidate to step down has been arrested alongside his girlfriend. 

The couple were held for questioning on Sunday after Benjamin Griveaux, a close ally of the French president, filed a complaint for privacy violation, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Pyotr Pavlensky claimed that he published a video of Mr Griveaux masturbating to expose the politician’s “hypocrisy”. He says the video was sent to his girlfriend by the French politician. 

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Mr Griveaux, who is married with three children, had made family values a major part of his election campaign. 

Mr Griveaux pulled out of the Paris mayoral contest on Friday and has not denied that he sent the leaked messages to a woman who is not his wife.

The prosecutor's office said Mr Pavlensky was arrested and placed in custody in central Paris over an alleged violent incident on New Years Eve.

It said that Mr Griveaux had filed a complaint on Saturday afternoon for privacy violation and that an investigation has now been opened into this case.

Under French law, so-called "revenge porn", or the publishing of pornographic material without a person's content, can be punished by up to two years in prison and a 60,000-euro ($65,000) fine.

Mr Pavlensky is best known for works of performance art, which include nailing his scrotum to the ground in Moscow's Red Square and setting fire to a door at the headquarters of Russia's state security agency or the Bank of France.

He has lived in exile in France since 2017.  

The sexting scandal involving Mr Griveaux has caused shockwaves in a country where politicians' private lives have long been considered off limits.

The politician - who Mr Pavlensky claimed to be the man in the videos posted online - supported Emmanuel Macron's rise to power and was the French president's chosen candidate for Paris mayor.

The French health minister, Agnes Buzyn, has been announced as the party's replacement. 

Additional reporting by agencies