Russia Throws Pussy Riot Back in Jail as Olympics Draw to a Close

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pussy_Riot_by_Igor_Mukhin.jpg

Two recently released members of the Russian punk rock collective Pussy Riot have been detained yet again, this time outside the Olympic village in Sochi on Tuesday.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24,  and Maria Alyokhina, 25, were both imprisoned for two years after being arrested for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” per the BBC. The particular performance they were arrested for was of a song entitled “Punk Prayer — Mother of God Chase Putin Away,” which they sang inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The performance was to protest the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After almost completing their two-year sentences, the women were released at the end of December as a part of an amnesty effort from Putin, who they believe was trying to make himself look generous on the eve of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Earlier this month, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina went on a press tour in the West and spoke about the continued injustices the Russian people experience.

This week, the final week of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the women were in Sochi to stage a protest of the event and Putin’s regime when they were arrested on suspicion of being involved in an unknown crime. While Pussy Riot was in Sochi to stage a protest, its members were not protesting at the time of arrest. Tolokonnikova tweeted in Russian about the arrest and posted a picture of herself in a police vehicle.

According to a report from the New York Times, the women were questioned for a few hours and later released. They emerged from the police station wearing Pussy Riot’s signature colorful balaclavas.

“On the 16th we were detained for seven hours,” Tolokonnikova tweeted (translation via the New York Times). “On the 17th, we spent 10 hours with the F.S.B. and today we are in a police wagon, accused of theft.”

The Times reports that protests in Sochi are not outlawed completely but that they are confined to a park in Khosta, and protesters must apply and receive government approval before holding a demonstration there. The publication noted that the site has been little used for this purpose, and Russia continues to target those protesting closer to the site of the Olympics. Local activist Semyon Simonov confirmed to the New York Times that he was one of eight people arrested along with the two members of Pussy Riot on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender former member of the Italian Parliament, said that she had been detained by Russian authorities during a protest for LGBTQ rights.

“We are in Sochi to hold a Pussy Riot action,” Tolokonnikova tweeted. “The song is called, ‘Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland.’”

And perform it they did. Shortly after being released from the police station in Sochi, the members of Pussy Riot ran through the streets singing the song, reports the BBC. The group plans to release a video of the song online, which is the way they have spread most of their music and their message.

“Now there is an occupation of this territory, because the city is under total police and security control,” Tolokonnikova told reporters, per the BBC. “We have arrived here on Sunday [and] we are being detained all the time. Even when we were driving our car and walking in the street. So they are looking for any reasons to arrest us. There is no space for political protest here. If you want to say something critical you will be detained.”

Pussy Riot has called for LGBTQ rights and free speech, and views Putin’s regime as a dictatorship. The women in the collective gained a huge amount of support in the West after their arrest and imprisonment in 2012.

“This is certainly not the time for us to be afraid. In these two years since the act for which we were imprisoned, the situation in Russia has gotten so much worse. And if we couldn’t keep quiet about it then, then we certainly won’t keep quiet about it now,” Tolokonnikova said to the Times in an interview given earlier this month.

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