Pussy Riot Members Being Watched by Big Brother in Russia?

Pussy Riot

The detainment and subsequent release of Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the punk band Pussy Riot is eerily reminiscent of George Orwell’s dystopic novel 1984. The number of times the Pussy Riot members have been detained without adequate cause, and let out later since their arrival in Sochi reinforces the idea that they are being watched by “Big Brother” in Russia.

According to reports in the Russian media and Tolokonnikova’s husband Petr Verzilov, the two women were speaking to journalists in Sochi when they were surrounded by a group of policemen in plainclothes. The police then placed under arrest the entire group consisting of the journalists, Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova, three other Pussy Riot members who went by pseudonyms like “Tank,” and two local activists. They were apparently being taken for questioning over a theft that occurred in Malakhit Hotel in Sochi, where Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were staying.

Thumbing their noses at the establishment, the band members almost immediately began tweeting about their arrest and even posted a picture of the vehicle in which they were being taken to the police station in Central Sochi. Alyokhina, in her tweet, said that the police had used force to push them into a police van after they were stopped and accused of thievery in the vicinity of the Church of Mikhail the Archangel.

While one Pussy Riot member,Tank, informed CNN over phone that they were being made to wait endlessly without any information from the police, Tolokonnikva spoke to abc NEWS telling them that she and Alyokhina have been harassed everyday since they came to Sochi three days ago. She accused Russia’s Federal Security Service, also known as FSB, of detaining them for hours together everyday since their arrival in the Olympic town to perform a song titled, Putin Will Make You Love Your Motherland. 

The song, according to the Pussy Riot member, is a dedication to corruption behind the Sochi Olympics arrangement, to the suppression of freedom inside Russia and to ecologist Yevgeny Vitishko. The ecologist, who authored a report by the Echo Watch North Caucasus group, on damages caused to the environment on the sidelines of the Olympic village construction, was charged with public swearing and arrested earlier this month. The FSB apparently told the Pussy Riot members that they were “wanted” and the unsubstantiated and repeated arrests make it look like Russia’s Big Brother is watching them closely.

Meanwhile, the Pussy Riot group issued a statement earlier in February that Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were no longer members of their group. The six members who issued the statement said that they were going different ways because the duo’s fight for the rights of prisoners had become the mainstay of their focus. However, Tolokonnikova’s husband Petr Verzilov has dismissed the statement as false.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova’s protest against the Putin government in Russia is not new. The two bandmates were released from prison on Dec. 23 last year, in a prisoner amnesty from the Putin government just before the Sochi Olympics. The sweeping amnesty, which suspended their two year sentences, also marked the Russian Constitution’s 20th anniversary. They had been imprisoned for 21 months following charges of hooliganism and blasphemy in August 2012. Their protest performance of a punk song slamming Putin in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, a video of which they later uploaded on the internet,  led to their arrest.

The arrest, which grabbed international attention, made the women more popular as human rights activists than they ever were as performance artistes. They now tour the world addressing audiences on human rights and the lack of freedom in Russia. Ever since they got out of prison, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have been speaking to journalists describing their time in prison: they were allegedly treated in demeaning, inhumane ways by the prison guards and had to live in a sordid environment.

The women have also labelled the amnesty a publicity stunt by the Russian government ahead of the Sochi Olympics, which they have actively suggested people ignore. Speaking to the media after their release, Alyokhina was quoted as saying she would have preferred to remain in prison to protest if she could. She called the amnesty a hoax. While the games are proceeding according to plan in Sochi, the Pussy Riot members’ vocal accounts of their trysts with the Russian police may tighten the “Big Brother’s” watch over their movements.   

By Aruna Iyer

CNN

abc NEWS

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

Aljazeera America

USA Today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.