independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Freed Pussy Riot prisoners still want 'paranoid' Putin out

Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, and Maria Maria Alyokhina giving their first news conference in Moscow, Russia, after their release from prison after nearly two years. AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev

RUSSIA'S defiant Pussy Riot prisoners have painted a picture of an ideal future Russia in which Mikhail Khodorkovsky would replace a "paranoid" Vladimir Putin as Russia's president, while they launched an attack on the country's unforgiving prison system.

In their first public press conference since being released from separate prisons on Monday, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, (24) and Maria Alyokhina (25) said that for the foreseeable future they would dedicate themselves to fighting for prison reform. But they said the new direction did not represent a softening of their views on Vladimir Putin's regime.

HATRED

"Our attitude to Vladimir Putin has not changed. We'd like to do what we said in our last action -- we'd like him to go away," said Ms Tolokonnikova, referring to the "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral, in which they called on the Virgin Mary to miraculously evict Mr Putin from office.

It was this performance that led to them being jailed in 2012 for hooliganism aggravated by religious hatred.

"Vladimir Putin is a very closed, opaque chekist," said Ms Tolokonnikova, using the Russian slang for a secret policeman. "He is very much afraid. He builds walls around him that block out reality.

"Many of the things he said about Pussy Riot were so far from the truth, but it was clear he really believed them. I think he believes that Western countries are a threat, that it's a big bad world out there where houses walk on chicken legs and there is a global masonic conspiracy. I don't want to live in this terrifying fairytale."

Asked who she would rather replace the president, Ms Tolokonnikova said: "I'd like to offer Mikhail Borisovich (Khodorkovsky) the job."

"Me too," added Ms Alyokhina.

Mr Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon long considered Russia's most famous prisoner and an enemy of Mr Putin, was unexpectedly pardoned by the president a week ago.

He is currently in Berlin, where he has ruled out a career in politics or challenging Mr Putin directly. However, he has expressed determination to work to help other political prisoners, and he and Pussy Riot have exchanged open letters of support following their release.

But Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova denied that Mr Khodorkovsky, who is rum- oured to still have a small fortune squirrelled away in foreign bank accounts, would be funding their NGO.

"When we suggested working together it was not about financing. Mr Khodorkovsky is important for us as a very strong, a very resistant person. He is an incredible person who endured a much longer prison term than we did," said Ms Tolokonnikova.

"We think that would be very important for advocacy work. If he deems it possible to work with us it would be a great honour for us." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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