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Pussy Riot members released after arrest in Sochi

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:20 EDT
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Members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot (AFP)
 
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Russian police on Tuesday detained the two most famous Pussy Riot members in Sochi, host of the Winter Olympics, questioning the pair for several hours in a theft case.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who were only released from penal colonies under an amnesty late last year, were arrested along with several others in the morning and then set free after four hours in police custody.

Kremlin critics slammed the arrests as a public relations disaster for the Winter Games, which still have just under a week to run in the Russian Black Sea resort.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina walked out of the police station with their faces concealed by the colourful balaclavas that have been their trademark since their first performances in 2011.

They got into a waiting taxi and were driven away, an AFP correspondent said.

Police said they were arrested along with several others over accusations of theft from the hotel where they had been staying. They were picked up in central Sochi, some 30 kilometres north of the main Olympic venues.

The pair had already been in Sochi for two days on a visit aimed at recording a new performance opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has spearheaded the Sochi Olympics project from the start.

“They are trying to detain us so that we don’t walk around Sochi. We want to say the truth about what is happening in Sochi,” Tolokonnikova told AFP from the police station after being detained.

She accused the police of using force against them and said they would make a complaint.

“They used rough physical force against us. They beat us. The fact that they used force is awful… We have bruises and scratches.”

Tolokonnikova said that she and Alyokhina had gone to Sochi to perform a new song titled “Putin will teach you how to love the motherland.”

She said that before their arrest they had already managed to stage “some Olympic performances” without giving further details.

Tolokonnikova revealed that they had already been held and questioned by police for seven hours on Sunday and 10 hours on Monday.

-’No PR agency can help’-

A third member of Pussy Riot — named only as “Tank” — was also arrested, along with a photographer, Yevgeny Feldman.

Local environment group Ecological Watch on the Northern Caucasus (EWNC) said in a statement that Semyon Simonov of the Memorial rights group and local activist David Khakim had also been arrested.

Khakim was detained for several hours on Monday after holding a one-man picket to support Yevgeny Vitishko, an environmental activist jailed during the Games.

All those arrested Tuesday morning have now been released.

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch in Moscow said that the “ludicrous detention… will earn Russia more negative publicity than any public action they could organise.”

Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny added: “What kind of idiot do you have to be to arrest Pussy Riot in Sochi during the Olympics? No (PR) agency… can help here.”

The two women were in 2012 convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison colonies after staging their so-called “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. They were released early in December under a Kremlin-backed amnesty.

Their stunt came just ahead of Putin’s re-election to the Kremlin in March 2012 and was aimed at denouncing the Orthodox Church’s support of the Russian strongman during the campaign.

The trial turned them from little-known feminist punks who staged a handful of guerrilla performances in Moscow to the stars of a global cause-celebre symbolising the repression of civil dissent under Putin.

Earlier this month, the pair appeared at a star-studded concert in New York where they were cheered and feted by Madonna, who has become one of their main supporters.

However, other members of Pussy Riot criticised the pair for the performance, saying that it breached Pussy Riot’s principles.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have insisted they are still part of the collective.

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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