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Pussy Riot members arrested in Sochi

By Shaun Walker, The Guardian
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 7:00 EDT
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Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova waits in the defendant's cage at a courthouse (AFP)
 
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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who were among group of activists detained by police, deny alleged hotel theft

Two members of the punk group Pussy Riot who were released from jail in December have been arrested by Russian police in Sochi, along with a group of activists and journalists.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina said they had come to the Winter Olympics to hold a Pussy Riot performance, but were simply walking down the street when they were detained.

“We were just walking around Sochi when they grabbed us,” said Tolokonnikova by telephone from a police station not far from the Olympic Park. “They told us we are suspected of theft. Of course there has been no theft.”

Tolokonnikova said she and other members of Pussy Riot had been constantly followed since arriving in Sochi on Sunday evening. She said they spent several hours being questioned by security services on Monday, as the group attempted to plan a performance in the city.

As of early afternoon, she had not yet been questioned, and said “nobody is telling us anything” about what will happen next.

“We are in Sochi in order to carry out a Pussy Riot action,” wrote Tolokonnikova on Twitter shortly after the detention. “The song is called, ‘Putin will teach you how to love the motherland’”.

Semyon Simonov, a local human rights activist who was also detained along with the group, said that they had been accosted by police while walking along the street, and roughly bundled into a police van.

“They told us that we were suspected of a theft,” said Simonov from the police station where he was waiting to be questioned. He said no official charges had been made, but that the police told them the hotel where the Pussy Riot women are staying had reported them for theft.

Simonov said ten people had been arrested, including David Khakim, who was on Monday sentenced to 30 hours of community service by a Sochi court for holding a one-man protest in support of Evgeny Vitishko, a jailed environmentalist.

Vitishko has been sentenced to three years in prison for vandalising a fence, in a case that activists say is linked to his criticism of environmental violations during Olympic construction.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were released from prison in December, after serving most of a two-year sentence for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for their punk performance in Moscow’s main cathedral. They fell under a wide-ranging amnesty approved by President Vladimir Putin that was seen as a way to boost Russia’s image ahead of the Olympics.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014

 
 
 
 
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