independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Pussy Riot: we want to topple Putin

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, and Maria Alekhina giving a Moscow news conference after they were granted amnesty (AP)

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who spent nearly two years in prison for their irreverent protest in Moscow's main cathedral said today they still want to topple President Vladimir Putin.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina did not say how they plan to do it.

They were among three members of the band arrested after its brief, unauthorised performance in Christ The Saviour Cathedral in March 2012, calling on the Virgin Mary to protect Russia against Mr Putin who was on the verge of being elected to a third term in office.

All three were convicted of religious hooliganism and sentenced to two years. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were released this week under a broad general amnesty measure; the third was released on a suspended sentence last year.

Visibly nervous Tolokonnikova and Alekhina flew into Moscow today morning and held a two-hour news conference in the afternoon. Both insisted that their release did not change their attitude to the president and the system of government that he built.

"As for Vladimir Putin, we still feel the same about him," Tolokonnikova said, referring to the chorus in their song, "Mother of God, drive Putin away".

"We still want to do what we said in our last performance for which we spent two years in prison: drive him away."

Tolokonnikova said "the scariest thing about Putin's Russia is the impossibility to speak and be heard" and suggested that former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was pardoned earlier this month after spending 10 years in prison, would make a better president.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina steered most of the questions toward speaking about their plans to form an organisation to help Russian inmates. Tolokonnikova said Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny will help raise funds for the organization.

In September, Tolokonnikova published a long letter from her penal colony detailing harsh conditions for inmates including long hours that they put in at the prison workshop.

Critics say their release was prompted by Mr Putin's desire to improve his image in the West ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics next year.

AP

Press Association

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