Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot leave the Adler police station after being detained. (Photo: Elena Vlasova, USA TODAY Sports)
SOCHI (USA TODAY) -- Two members of the punk band Pussy Riot have been released by
police, about three hours after they were detained and questioned about
a theft at a Sochi hotel.
Nadezha Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina
and three others walked out of the police station chanting a song about
Putin and wearing neon balaclavas in pink, blue, green and yellow. They
were quickly engulfed by journalists waiting outside the police station
The five quickly ran away on foot, followed by the press, cars honking, creating a chaotic scene.
is clear that in Russia activists are treated like terorrists," said
one of the five, who was wearing a pink balaclava. "Inside we were
beaten because we didn't want to say anything without our lawyer. In
Russia there's no law.
"We were stopped in our hotel, told that
somebody had stolen some money, but they detained us for being
activists. We did not protest, but they said we planned to."
Upon her release Tolokonnikova tweeted: "Putin will teach you to love the motherland. That's what makes the Olympics."
The duo first were detained Tuesday afternoon while walking through downtown Sochi.
The town of Sochi is just 20 miles from the main Olympic venues.
Alexander Popkov, who represents the two Pussy Riot band members, told
USA TODAY Sports that the duo were beaten by police before his arrival
at the station.
Tweeted Tolokonnikova, via a translation: "Lawyer came, the police became more affectionate."
Alyokhina and about 13 others were being questioned by police about a
theft at the Malakhit Hotel in Sochi, where they were staying.
media has given them (Pussy Riot) the ability to express themselves.
Social media exploded," said Yelena Goltsman, founder and co-president
of RUSA LGBT a New York City-based group for Russian-speaking Americans,
of Tuesday's events.
Goltsman said she was not surprised that protests have been minimal until now.
am not surprised. This is not Russia," she said. "This is a city that
is made up. It was leveled, then created into theme park. The city is
surrounded by blockades."
Tolokonnikova sent a series of
tweets detailing the duo's activities and revealed that they also had
been detained for about seven hours on Sunday and 10 hours on Monday,
when they were held by the FSB, the Federal Security Service.
said she and Alyokhina were in Sochi to carry out a Pussy Riot action _
the song "Putin will teach you to love the motherland."
Q: Get the latest updates from Sochi
OLYMPICS: Full coverage of the Games
said the song is dedicated to the corrupt Olympics, ecologist Yevgeny
Vitishko and suppressed freedoms in Russia. Vitishko wrote a report by
the Echo Watch North Caucasus group about environmental damage caused by
Olympic construction. He was arrested in early February and charged
with swearing in public.
The Wall Street Journal reported
that Tolokonnikova said by telephone that she and Alyokhina were told
they were being held in relation to an alleged theft at their hotel.
Maria Alyokhina and the anonymous members of Pussy Riot, came to Sochi
to organize a protest and express our political views but at the time of
our detention [by the local police] we were just taking a stroll
minding our own business when we got picked up by the police and shoved
into a police van," Ms. Tolokonnikova said. "We've been detained like
anybody who's made an attempt to criticize authorities during the
Olympics. Authorities treat local guests and athletes nicely but not
those who are attempting to organize a protest."
first tweet, sent at 2:50 p.m. local time, revealed they had been
detained near the seaport of Sochi on suspicion of felony. In following
tweets, Tolokonnikova accused the police of using force during the
arrest and wrote that at the moment of detention they had not carried
out their action but rather were walking, emphasizing the walking.
90 minutes after tweeting that she had been detained, Tolokonnikova
tweeted that she was forced to testify without a lawyer.
TIMELINE: From protest to prison
24-year-old Tolokonnikova and 25-year-old Alyokhina were released Dec.
23 following a 21-month imprisonment for a protest performance in a
Moscow cathedral that led to charges of hooliganism and blasphemy.
band's third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on suspended
sentence shortly after all three women were found guilty of hooliganism
and sentenced to two years in prison in August 2012.
an Amnesty International concert in Brooklyn in early February,
Tolokonnikova called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, ranging from
not attending the event to giving it no media coverage.
Americans to keep their eyes open," she said through an interpreter,
"and not buy whole what (Vladimir) Putin is trying to sell them."
where they intended to go after being released, Alyokhina, said they
would go back to Russia: "It is our country, and we want to make it a
During the games, Russian officials have designated
an official "protest zone," roughly seven miles from any Olympic
venues. Anyone who wanted to voice his dissent over anti-gay laws, the
treatment of migrant workers who constructed the Olympic venues or
environmental concerns would be free to do it in the protest area.
Officials designated "Khosta" as the protest area, which has been ignored for the early part of the Games.
Protests outside the zone have begun to grow.
Monday, a well-known Italian activist for transgender rights was
escorted out of Olympic Park after attempting to enter one of the hockey
Vladimir Luxuria, a former member of the Italian
parliament, was in the park for more than an hour Monday wearing a
rainbow-colored outfit and yelling "It's OK to be gay," according to the
Luxuria told AP she was not detained, but her
Olympic spectator pass was taken away and she was released after being
driven away from the park.
International Olympic Committee
spokesman Mark Adams said the organization does not tolerate
demonstrations within the venues "whether we are sympathetic or not."'
understand she was in the park for a good hour, maybe two hours walking
around talking to spectators and people," Adams said. "Some people were
pro, some people were against, some people were very against, but I
know her stated aim was to demonstrate in the venue. I believe after a
couple hours when she finally got to the venue she was escorted from
there peacefully, not detained and even herself tweeted that it had all
been very polite."
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