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Pussy Riot Members Released and Ready to Fight for Human Rights

Posted on Dec 24, 2013

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left) and Maria Alyokhina reunite in Siberia after Tolokonnikova’s release.

Thanks to an amnesty bill passed unanimously in the Russian parliament, two members of the anti-Putin punk band were released from penal colonies Monday where they had been held for hooliganism after a demonstration at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Both Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova suffered innumerable injustices while serving time, enduring inhumane conditions that led Tolokonnikova to stage a hunger strike. Although the object of their protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin, had hoped to quash their spirits, both Pussy Rioters are more determined than ever to fight for human rights. According to the BBC:

But both Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova marched back into the spotlight as defiant as ever.

Even the fact they were being freed was something to be up in arms about.

It was, they both said, a hoax: a cynical attempt by President Putin to buy better publicity for Russia ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and it should not deter European leaders from staging a boycott.

They were still punk rockers all the way, performance artists who saw every aspect of their lives as a facet of protest.

Being driven away from the prison in a black Volga car, once a symbol of Russian officialdom, was “a conceptual release”, noted Maria Alyokhina, smiling wryly.

“Hold on to your seat belts, everything is just starting,” she added, claiming that given the chance, they would have sung the irreverent song in their famous cathedral stunt to the end.

There would be new projects, she promised, using the same methods.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin still wants the world to know Putin’s not sorry for imprisoning the musicians. Apparently, his only regret, announced at a news conference, is the women’s “outrageous behaviour—a disgrace to their femininity.”

Unfortunately Putin’s not the only person in Russia who would have liked to have seen Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova continue to live out their lives in penal colonies. The BBC adds:

Many passers-by grabbed for a word by television crews on the streets in the central Russian and Siberian cities where they were imprisoned were clear that the two women deserved their sentences for such sacrilegious behaviour in a Russian church, and should probably have served their time in full.

But their time in prison did not leave them unscathed. Tolokonnikova explained, “I saw the state from within, I saw this totalitarian machine as it is. ... Russia is built on the model of a penal colony.”

And yet, despite fear of the “machine,” the two reunited Tuesday morning in Siberia and reiterated their hopes to start new plans inspired by the plight of women within prison who are treated, according to Alyokhina, like “malleable clay.” It remains to be seen now what messages Pussy Riot will choose to convey, and how Putin will respond to these “disgraceful” former political prisoners.

Chances are he’ll find the rioters represent just as much trouble to his totalitarian tendencies inside prison as out. And, if the “hooligans” are up to it, he may realize this as early as the Sochi Olympics.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi


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