Published February 20, 2014
Russian punk band Pussy Riot ended their time in Sochi Thursday by releasing a video bashing the Olympics and President Vladimir Putin, a day after band members were whipped by militia members in an attack the International Olympic Committee called “very unsettling.”
The band has been filming in Sochi since Sunday and has had violent run-ins with authorities. They have been detained several times, and on Wednesday militia members attacked the group with horsewhips as they tried to perform under an Olympic sign.
“Cossacks attacked Pussy Riot, beat us with whips and sprayed a lot of pepper gas at us," band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova posted on Twitter Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Maria Alekhina, another member of the group, tweeted photographs of blood dripping down the face of a supporter after the whipping. Other photos showed red marks across Tolokonnikova's chest.
Konstantin Perenizhko, a deputy to the regional Cossack military leader, described the performance as a “some sort of a cheap provocation,” Reuters reports.
On Thursday, band members said they were returning to Moscow to attend the verdicts in a trial of 20 people arrested after clashes on the eve of Putin's inauguration to a third term in 2012.
The performance-art collective, made up of a loose grouping of feminists, has called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, arguing that Putin has exceeded his authority and is restricting human rights. Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina spent nearly two years in prison on charges of hooliganism for their protest in Moscow's main cathedral in 2012.
Pussy Riot's new video, called "Putin will teach you how to love the motherland", was posted on YouTube and features a song and footage of the band's protests.
The band described some of its Sochi experience in the song:
"Sochi locked down/the Olympus under surveillance/Of guns and crowds of cops."
Members told a news conference their treatment in Sochi is symptomatic of dissent being stifled in Russia.
"The Olympics has turned the police state into a total police state and the authoritarian regime into a totalitarian regime with preventive arrests," Tolokonnikova said. "The Olympics has created an environment of sweeping violations of human rights in Russia. We are banned from speaking out here."
Tolokonnikova described the band's performances throughout the city since Sunday as a form of "active boycott" of the games.
Madonna, the band's highest-profile fan, tweeted on Thursday: "Are you kidding me? Are the police in Russia actually whipping Pussy Riot for making music on the streets?"
As they gave the news conference in a Sochi park, Pussy Riot was surrounded by pro-Kremlin activists, who interrupted speakers.
Since their release in December, Tolokonnikova and Alekhina have avoided public performances and plunged into activism. They set up a group to defend prisoners' rights and have been publicizing alleged abuse in Russian prisons.
A masked Pussy Riot member said the band had set out to attract international attention to the plight of defendants in a trial she described as "the biggest disgrace of modern Russia."
Twenty people were arrested after clashes between police and demonstrators in May 2012 on Bolotnaya Square on the eve of Putin's inauguration to a third term as Russia's president. They are now on trial, and some of them face up to 10 years in prison if convicted for the protest.
The band is due to attend the trial verdict in the Bolotnaya trial on Friday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.