Pussy Riot take the stage with Madonna at Amnesty International Concert ahead of Sochi 2014

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina demanded 'a Russia without Putin' on the eve of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Two members of Pussy Riot took to a New York stage during a star-studded Amnesty International concert on Wednesday evening to call for the release of anti-government prisoners, ahead of the Russian opening ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

"We demand a Russia that is free and a Russia without Putin," Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the crowd after being introduced at Amnesty International's "Bringing Human Rights Home" concert by the pop star Madonna.

Tolokonnikova, alongside fellow band members Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, had been found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after performing a protest song highly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.

They were released from prison following an amnesty from the government, having served 18 months of their two-year sentences.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina also met with Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations before speaking at the concert.

Power and the two band members discussed "the disturbing trend in (Russia) of legislation, prosecutions and government actions aimed at suppressing dissent and pressuring groups that advocate for fundamental human rights and basic government accountability," Power's deputy spokesman Kurtis Cooper said.

Madonna introduces Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova onstage at the Amnesty International Concert At the concert, the pair brought attention to eight Russian demonstrators who will be sentenced later this month after being charged with mass disorder at a 2012 protest against Putin.

At the same news conference, Alyokhina said she absolutely did not regret the performance that landed her in prison and said there was no question but that she would continue to live in Russia.

Of Putin, she said: "We want to say to him, 'leave,'".

The pair also denied rumors about Pussy Riot's demise.

"Anybody can be Pussy Riot. You just need to put on a mask and stage an act of protest in your particular country," Alyokhina said. "We are just two individuals that spent two years in jail for taking part in a Pussy Riot protest action."

Their call came as Moscow faced increasing pressure from the West in the months leading up to the Games over their intolerance of political dissent and gay propaganda laws. 

While Pussy Riot did not perform, R&B singer Lauryn Hill, Blondie, and the alternative rock groups Imagine Dragons and Cake played at the all-star concert at a packed Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Additional reporting by Reuters

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup