From Russia With Hate: Pussy Riot Resists Injustice

Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova may have been freed from jail late last year, but they are far from winning their battle against Russian injustice. After spending two years incarcerated for a “punk prayer” performance criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin, the grrrls are right back to protesting with their new song, “Putin Teaches Us to Love Our Motherland,” which upset government officials.

Trouble began again for Pussy Riot on Tuesday in Sochi, host city of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, when Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were roughly detained while on their way to meet with journalists. Police suspected the women of a theft that had occurred at their hotel. Tolokonnikova tweeted during the arresting process:

They dragged me on the floor in the hall of the department, hands tied behind back and thrown to the floor. Putin will teach you to love the motherland!

They were detained for 10 hours before being released.

The next day, Pussy Riot was again targeted by Russian authorities while trying to film a music video for their new song. Cossacks, a socially conservative group that has been utilized by Russian government as a volunteer citizen patrol during the Olympics, descended upon the group with horse whips and pepper spray. The attack was brutal; Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova’s husband, was taken to the hospital, unable to see. Alyokhina tweeted photos of another Pussy Riot member with red marks on her chest, sustained from the whips. The entire attack was caught on film.

The Olympics have created a stir for all human rights activists. Former Italian parliament member Vladimir Luxuria, a well-known transgender rights activist, was arrested Monday for showing up to the Games in a rainbow flag with the words, “Gay is OK”, in Russian. She was released after several hours.

The International Olympic Committee(IOC) defended the removal of Luxuria from the Games, and spokesman Mark Adams, in regards to the Pussy Riot attacks, said:

You will have to speak with the local authority about that. It happened in Sochi, but I understand that what happened wasn’t in context of any protest against the games.

The IOC charter states,

The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity

They seem to be taking a neutral stance, at this point, in regards to the lack of preservation of human dignity in Russia.

See the new issue of Ms. magazine for an excerpt from Masha Gessen’s new book, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. Join the Ms. community today and don’t miss a word!

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Lindsey O'Brien is currently studying journalism at Ohio University and interning at Ms. Follow her on Twitter.