A member of the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, who cut down a wooden crucifix in Kiev in support of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, has fled Ukraine, the group said on its website on Wednesday.
Femen says that Inna Shevchenko had been under 24-hour surveillance by officers of the Security Service of Ukraine for two weeks and the group feared she might be arrested.
“The organization’s council ruled to evacuate activist Shevchenko to Paris, where she could continue her work,” Femen said on its website.
Shevchenko left her apartment via the balcony, then drove a car to the town of Korosten, where she boarded a train to Warsaw.
In an interview with the 1+1 TV channel, Femen said it planned to open a “Femen training center for activists” in Paris, where “activists from Europe and all over the world will be invited.”
A video posted online on August 17 showed a topless blond Femen protester wearing red shorts, with the words “Free Riot” scrawled across her chest and arms, cutting the cross with a chainsaw and then pulling it down using a rope pulled by two other activists, and then posing with her arms extended crucifix-style.
The cross was put up on a high hill near Kiev’s downtown Independence Square during the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.
The activists warned Russian President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia that they would “turn the blade of our chainsaw” against those “responsible for the suffering of innocent women” if the Pussy Riot members are jailed.
Three Pussy Riot participants - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30 - were found guilty of hooliganism aimed at "inciting religious hatred” over their protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 26, during which they performed a “punk prayer” calling on the Virgin Mary to “drive Putin out.” They are now serving three-year jail terms.
Commenting on the incident, Alyokhina said she disapproved of cross cutting. The trend, however, has since spread to Russia.
In late August, four crosses were cut down in Russia's regions by a group who said the act was a "revenge" for the Pussy Riot sentence. Two weeks later, a wooden Orthodox Christian cross has been chopped down in the Altai region of Siberia.