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Released Pussy Riot member says authorities are playing ‘strange game’ of ‘calculated harassment’

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:18 EDT
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Pussy Riot members in court via AFP
 
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A member of the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot freed unexpectedly from prison said there was no split within the group, accusing the authorities of playing a “strange game” against the women.

A Russian appeals court on Wednesday unexpectedly ordered the release of Yekaterina Samutsevich, but upheld the two-year prison camp sentences against her two bandmates Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

The trio were contesting their conviction for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after they performed a song mocking President Vladimir Putin in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Russia’s top church, in February.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the liberal television channel REN-TV that is set to be aired on Saturday, Samutsevich denied there was a split in the band.

“All of us have the same convictions. We’ve never thought about changing them,” she said, sporting the same clothes she wore at the Wednesday hearing.

“Maybe it was a move by the authorities,” the 30-year-old said in the interview, excerpts of which have been posted online.

“Some strange game of the authorities is beginning.

“To me, it is a campaign of calculated harassment by the authorities,” she added, referring to what she said was state television’s distorted coverage of the controversial affair that polarised the predominantly Orthodox country.

Samutsevich’s release came after her announcement at the first appeals hearing on October 1 that she was changing her lawyer.

The Pussy Riot defence team said it was not entirely aware of all the circumstances behind the change in her position.

The judges said Wednesday Samutsevich had received a suspended sentence as she played a more minor role in the performance dubbed “The Punk Prayer”, having been apprehended by security before it had properly begun.

In a highly unusual move, the judge who delivered Wednesday’s ruling held a news conference in Moscow, seeking to deflect criticism that her decision might have been influenced by pressure from the Kremlin.

“No-one ever puts pressure on us, and no-one put pressure on us especially over this case,” Larisa Polyakova told reporters.

Her colleague who participated in the appeals hearing said Samutsevich had been freed because she did not shout in the church.

“Like the rest, Samutsevich put on a hat, uncased her guitar, got into a fight with a guard and took away his walkie-talkie,” said judge Yury Pasyunin.

“At the same time the rest began to shout, make noises, express their emotions. Samutsevich simply did not have the time to shout, she was taken outside.”

Polyakova added the three judges at the hearing had come to the conclusion Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova’s behaviour could not be corrected unless they were isolated from society.

Observers said the Moscow city court’s unexpected ruling could generate new tensions.

“Which new game exactly have our authorities begun?” mass-circulation newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said on its frontpage.

“Are we once again talking about an attempt to apply the time-honoured formula ‘divide and rule’”? it asked.

The spokeswoman for the Russian prisons service told AFP the two jailed members of Pussy Riot should be sent to a penal colony within the next 10 days.

Kristina Belousova declined to say where the two young women, who both have small children, will serve their sentence.

“According to law on personal data, only their relatives will know about it,” she said.

Samutsevich said she was hoping to continue being part of the band in the future, inviting others to join it.

“The band is always open to new people. People want to work with us.”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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