Pussy Riot pair flee Russia to avoid charges

 

Two members of Russia's anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot have fled the country to avoid prosecution for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin at a church altar, the group said yesterday.

A Moscow court sentenced three members of the all-female opposition band to two years in prison on 17 August for staging a "punk prayer" at the city's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February and calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Mr Putin. The sentence drew sharp international criticism of the authorities, while opposition groups at home have portrayed it as part of a Kremlin clampdown on dissent.

Police said earlier this week they were searching for other members of the band. A Twitter account called Pussy Riot Group read: "In regard to the pursuit, two of our members have successfully fled the country! They are recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new actions!"

Defence lawyers of the convicted Pussy Riot members – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – are expected to appeal against their sentences next week. Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said yesterday that the two members who have fled had taken part in the cathedral protest.

"They are in a safe place beyond the reach of the Russian police," he said by phone. Asked if that meant a country that had no extradition agreement with Russia, Verzilov said: "Yes, that suggests that. But you must remember that 12 or even 14 members who are still in Russia actively participate in the band's work now, it's a big collective."

Reuters

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