MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) – Police in the Russian Olympic host city of Sochi detained three members of the anti-Kremlin feminist punk group Pussy Riot and several journalists for questioning Tuesday about a theft in a local hotel.
Human rights organizations said at least 10 people, including Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were detained Tuesday afternoon.
Tolokonnikova wrote on Twitter that she and Alyokhina were released about four hours later.
Sochi rights activists Semyon Simonov and David Khakim and photojournalist Yevgeny Feldman were also detained, SochiWatch said.
Police confirmed in a statement that they had taken a group of people to a police station in the nearby mountain resort town of Adler and were “interviewing everyone staying at this hotel” in connection with the theft.
“The questioning about the theft in the Adler hotel is now over, those questioned are not facing charges,” police said.
Tolokonnikova said she, Alyokhina and another female Pussy Riot activist were arrested while walking around Sochi after arriving in the city to record a protest video.
“We’re in Sochi to carry out a Pussy Riot protest. The song is called ‘Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland,’” she wrote.
She said officers had used force to detain them and that they had been forced to give statements without a lawyer.
Tolokonnikova also complained that Pussy Riot members and cameramen had been subjected to violence while in detention, and said she would complain to the Investigative Committee about the matter.
Police said they had received no complaint from her so far.
“Tolokonnikova has voiced no objections about police officers’ actions so far, and filed no formal complaints or demands,” the Sochi police department said.
Alexander Popkov, a lawyer who said he would be representing the group, confirmed to RIA Novosti that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had been arrested on suspicion of stealing from the hotel where they were staying, and said that about 30-40 officers had been involved in the arrest.
Tolokonnikova also said police had detained her and Alyokhina for a total of 17 hours on Sunday and Monday, though she did not specify why.
Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alyokhina, 25, were released early from prison two months ago under an amnesty granted by President Vladimir Putin in December.
The women had been serving two-year prison sentences on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for taking part in an anti-Kremlin protest staged by Pussy Riot in Moscow’s main cathedral in 2012.
Both women accused Putin of using the amnesty as a political tool to clean up Russia's human rights image ahead of the Olympic Games, currently taking place in Sochi.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina embarked on an international tour following their release from prison, saying they planned to distance themselves from radical political activism and focus on a new project, called Zona Prava, to campaign for prisoners’ rights in Russia.
Their appearances on TV shows and at an Amnesty International concert along with Madonna in New York angered other members of Pussy Riot, however, who published an open letter in February saying the pair were no longer part of the group.
Tolokonnikova wrote on Twitter that Pussy Riot’s new song was about activists jailed after an anti-Kremlin rally in Moscow in 2012, corruption surrounding the Olympics, the jailing of a local environmental activist and the suppression of freedom in Russia.
Updated with details, police statement, background.