Two members of Pussy Riot 'detained in Sochi' are released

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova ran out of a police station in their trademark balaclavas following several hours of questioning

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the protest group Pussy Riot, have been released after being detained near the site of the Winter Olympics in downtown Sochi.

Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova  ran out of a police station in their trademark balaclavas following several hours of questioning in Sochi, the host city of the Winter Olympics.

Police said they were questioned in connection with a theft at the hotel where they were staying. No charges were filed.

Tolokonnikova said the detention was the latest in a series of harassments against the group since Sunday. She said they had been detained for several hours on the previous two days. 

"We members of Pussy Riot have been here since late Sunday and we were constantly detained since then," Tolokonnikova said after her release. "We are constantly surrounded by people, not you journalists, but people who are shadowing us, following our every move and looking for any excuse to detain us." 

Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova were in Sochi with other members of Pussy Riot to record a musical film called "Putin will teach you to love the motherland", Ms Tolokonnikova's husband said on Twitter.

The women were being held at a police station in Adler, he said.

"We have been arrested ... and are accused of robbery," Ms Tolokonnikova said on her Twitter account, adding that police had used force during the arrest.

"At the time of our detention, we weren't engaged in any protests, we were walking around Sochi. WE WERE WALKING." Ms Alyokhina also posted a tweet appearing to show them being held in the back of a police van that said "from inside the paddy waggon".

Ms Tolokonnikova said she and Ms Alyokhina had also been detained for seven hours on Sunday and for 10 hours on Monday, though their presence in Sochi had not been advertised. "Now we are riding around in a police van accused of theft," she wrote.

 

Amnesty International had described the turn of events as "outrageous" and called for their imemdiate release. In a statement, its Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:

“In Putin’s Russia, the authorities have turned the Olympic rings - a worldwide symbol of hope and striving for the best of the human spirit - into handcuffs to shackle freedom of expression.

“This is outrageous. There are reports of arrests of activists in Sochi and the Olympic Games area almost daily. The International Olympic Committee must roundly condemn these and all arrests of activists near Sochi.

“People are being targeted merely for peacefully speaking their minds. The Russian authorities must end this downward spiral of human rights violations around the Olympic Village.”



In 2012, Ms Tolokonnikova, alongside fellow band members Ms Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were 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 in December last year, having served 18 months of their two-year sentences.

The actions taken against Pussy Riot come a day after an Italian transgender activist and former politician was detained at the Olympics. Vladimir Luxuria was stopped while carrying a rainbow flag that read in Russian: “Gay is OK.” On Sunday, Ms Luxuria said she was held by police and told not to wear clothing with slogans promoting gay rights

The police were not immediately available for comment.

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