Pussy Rioters released

Kelsey Bundra
Associate Features Editor

When not following the Sochi Olympic Games, many are keeping up with the protests involving Putin’s policies. One of the protest groups catching the world’s attention is Pussy Riot.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina share their experiences in a Russian prison for opposing President Putin.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina share their experiences in a Russian prison for opposing President Putin.

Pussy Riot is a punk protest band. The group is composed of 11 Russian women, founded in 2011. Their protests are known as “guerilla performances” in which their unexpected displays are filmed and then posted to the internet. Pussy Riot is known for their songs supporting gay rights, feminism and the separation of church and state. Songs are often dedicated to the opposition of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
It was one incident in particular that landed Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich in jail on February 21, 2012. According to CNN, they played their “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. This protest was aimed to question the secularism of the government. They were later charged with hooliganism, and other members of the band fled Russia.
This was not the first time that members protested the government. Tolokonnikova and her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, were also members of Voina. According to CNN, Voina is a protest, performance art group. One of the protests included female members kissing policewomen in public places to promote gay rights.
While serving the last two months of their two year sentence, Putin’s amnesty law allowed Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina to be released along with many other political prisoners. Among the 22,000 released due to the amnesty bill, is Mikhail Khodorovsky, an oil tycoon that served 10 years of his sentence. The third Pussy Riot member to be charged, Yekaterina, remains in jail. Still, many question Putin’s intention in providing amnesty.
According to CNN, Tolokonnikova called the amnesty a “publicity stunt.” Also, she called to attention the timing of release right before the Sochi Olympics. Other political prisoners share the same sentiment. According to Time World, upon release Alyokhina said if given the choice she would have refused the amnesty. The pair did not understand why specific political prisoners were chosen over others.
Now Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are visiting jails across Russia containing political prisoners. The two are also visiting prisons in other countries to make comparisons. They are continuing to collect stories of political prisoners’ experiences. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were restricted from conducting interviews at prisons they were previously held. When asked why they were visiting jails by Vice News, Tolokonnikova answered, “The point is to go and support the people who were brave enough to speak out.”
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina argue that the justice system in Russia is broken. Vice News reports that there is a problem with power distribution in courtrooms, and being accused is enough to land a person in jail. Reports also state violations of the separation of powers. Many do not have access to a fair trial. Russia’s government is a single party state. All other parties are outlawed, making it difficult to show opposition. Protesting has become the only platform in which the opposition can raise its voice.

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