Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Pussy Riot posts anti-Putin video

A Cossack militiaman attacks members of the punk group Pussy Riot in Sochi (AP)

Russian punk band Pussy Riot have ended their stay in the Olympic city of Sochi by posting a video criticising the Winter Games and President Vladimir Putin.

The band has been filming in Sochi since Sunday and has had violent run-ins with authorities. They have been detained several times, and yesterday militia members attacked the group with horsewhips as they tried to perform under an Olympic sign.

Band members said they were returning to Moscow to attend the verdicts in a trial of 20 people arrested after clashes on the eve of Putin's inauguration to a third term in 2012.

The performance-art collective, made up of a loose grouping of feminists, has called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, arguing that Putin has exceeded his authority and is restricting human rights.

Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina spent nearly two years in prison on charges of hooliganism for their protest in Moscow's main cathedral in 2012.

Pussy Riot's video, called "Putin will teach you how to love the motherland", was posted on YouTube and features a song and footage of the band's protests.

The band described some of their Sochi experience in the song:

"Sochi locked down/the Olympus under surveillance/Of guns and crowds of cops."

Members told a news conference their treatment in Sochi is symptomatic of dissent being stifled in Russia.

"The Olympics has turned the police state into a total police state and the authoritarian regime into a totalitarian regime with preventive arrests," Tolokonnikova said. "The Olympics has created an environment of sweeping violations of human rights in Russia. We are banned from speaking out here."

Tolokonnikova described the band's performances throughout the city since Sunday as a form of "active boycott" of the games.

Madonna, the band's highest-profile fan, tweeted today: "Are you kidding me? Are the police in Russia actually whipping Pussy Riot for making music on the streets?"

As they gave the news conference in a Sochi park, Pussy Riot was surrounded by pro-Kremlin activists, who interrupted speakers.

The International Olympic Committee today condemned the attack on Pussy Riot, saying images it saw were "very unsettling".

Since their release in December, Tolokonnikova and Alekhina have avoided public performances and plunged into activism. They set up a group to defend prisoners' rights and have been publicising alleged abuse in Russian prisons.

AP

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