World

Pussy Riot Members Arrested at Sochi Olympics

The band members were released several hours later without being charged of anything.

Members of "Pussy Riot" Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (R), Maria Alyokhina (L) and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit in a glass-walled cage after being sentenced in Moscow.

The two members of the Russian band Pussy Riot who shot to fame after being arrested and thrown in jail in 2012 were detained again today during the Sochi Olympics. Russian authorities say Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were detained in connection with a theft at the hotel where they were staying, though defenders of the band dismissed that claim, saying it was just a pretext.

The Pussy Riot members were released several hours later without being charged of anything.  (Other Pussy Riot band collective members, who use pseudonyms, say that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are no longer part of Pussy Riot.)

“They were put to the floor and beaten and physical force was used to them when they refused to be questioned without the presence of their lawyer, who was on his way to the police department,” Petr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband, told CNN.

As the New York Times noted, “the detentions appeared to be a serious public relations mistake by the local authorities, and quickly developed into a major media sensation.”

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were released from Russian prison in late December under an amnesty program initiated by Vladimir Putin.

They were held in jail for over a year after being arrested for performing a song at a Russian church. They became international celebrities in the aftermath, and now have toured the world speaking out against Putin.

The two band members were in Russia to perform a protest song called “Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland.”  They were arrested while walking with journalists, other Pussy Riot members and activists.  The band members tweeted while being arrested.  “Unbelievable lawlessness, even we are amazed,” wrote Tolokonnikova. “Beat on the floor of the department, in the Olympic capital!”

Russia has sought to stave off any protest action during the Sochi Olympics.  The only demonstrations allowed by Russia, who initially wanted to ban any political protest during the games, have to be approved by the government and take place miles away.

 

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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