SOCHI, February 18 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – When five masked Pussy Riot activists emerged from a Sochi police precinct, they broke into a song titled “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland.”
The show did not attract much attention from the local denizens, but a loud, anxious, trampling crowd of foreign reporters chased them relentlessly as the activists began to scurry away while still singing the song.
An improvised press conference in the middle of the street followed, to the mad honking of blocked traffic. After an encore of the song, the activists sprinted over to a taxi stand where they all were driven away, without removing their masks, by impassive grizzled cabbies.
Several members of the Russian feminist punk band were briefly detained in Sochi on Tuesday along with their supporters, including band affiliate Pyotr Verzilov and local opposition activist David Khakim.
Local police said the band members were wanted for questioning in connection with a theft at a hotel where they were staying in the Sochi district of Adler, outside the Olympic Park.
“Some 30-40 police detained them, acting quite roughly,” their lawyer, Alexander Popkov, told RIA Novosti.
The activists were released after three hours without any charges.
Pussy Riot members claimed after their release that they were dragged across the floor and manhandled by police until their lawyer arrived.
It was the third time they were held for questioning on various allegations in their three days in Sochi, the previous two detentions lasting about 10 hours each, one of them said.
Pussy Riot plans to record a video for the “Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland” in Sochi during the ongoing Olympics, said Verzilov, husband of formerly imprisoned band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.
He said the video will consist of masked street performances of the sardonic song like Tuesday’s impromptu one following their release from custody.
Pussy Riot, an anonymous all-female collective, has been hijacking public places in Russia since 2011, performing loud quasi-punk protest songs on camera and dispersing before police arrive.
The group became worldwide celebrities after a show at Russia’s biggest Orthodox Christian church, Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.
Three group members – Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – were identified and convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing an anti-Putin song at the church’s altar.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were given two-year terms in prison, while Samutsevich got away with a suspended sentence.
The two activists walked out of prison after being granted presidential amnesty in December and subsequently embarked on a worldwide spoken-word tour, complete with stints on US television show “The Colbert Report” and a star-studded Amnesty International concert with Madonna.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova and the remaining Pussy Riot members have repeatedly announced the end of their affiliation with one another.
But Verzilov told RIA Novosti that this was not the case.
“The [previous] statement has been denounced by band members. This is definitely a Pussy Riot action,” he said after the group’s release on Tuesday, as his wife, unmasked, rolled past him in a taxi, shouting at him to pick up a guitar they left at the police station.
Local teenagers, the only ones who viewed the impromptu performance besides the throng of reporters, commented with an elated series of expletives as Tolokonnikova passed by.