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Russia: Pussy Riot members released after being held in Sochi

Band member says Winter Games are ‘political event’

Two members of the punk rock collective Pussy Riot were released in Sochi after being detained for about 10 hours on suspicion of theft. Credit: Screen shot from BBC

Wearing ski masks, two members of the punk rock group Pussy Riot waded into a media throng after they were released in Sochi following their Feb 17 arrest on suspicion of theft, the BBC reports.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, along with three others, emerged from a police station, then ran down a street, reportedly singing the lyrics to a new song that condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership. The BBC notes that there is conflict within the punk collective, pointing to a letter by six group members who say Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina should no longer be characterized as belonging to the group.

Tolokonnikova, who told the BBC that police detained them for about 10 hours after they arrived in the resort city to make a statement about the Winter Games, said there is no room for political dissent.

In October, another band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, said she was in support of a boycott of the Games as there was “no other way” to bring about change in a social and legislative environment that was proving increasingly hostile to civil liberties.

In the leadup to the Olympic opening ceremonies, Russian authorities released members of the Pussy Riot band, who were convicted of hooliganism for performing a protest song critizing Putin in a Moscow cathedral. The band members were released in December, as were businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Greenpeace activists, in what many observers saw as a bid by Putin to offset ongoing criticism that threatened to overshadow the Winter Games.