Huffpost WorldPost
Eline Gordts Headshot

Pussy Riot Renews Calls For Sochi Boycott

Posted: Updated:
Print Article
PUSSY RIOT
Members of the punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, left, and Nadya Tolokonnikova, right, listen during a press conference at Amnesty International's New York headquarters, on Tuesday Feb. 4, 2014 in New York. They were released from Russian prison in December, after nearly two years in jail following a conviction for hooliganism when they staged a protest in a Russian church, in what was widely seen as a public relations move ahead of the Olympics by Russian President Vlad | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot renewed their calls for world leaders to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics, mere days before the start of the games in the resort town of Sochi.

Speaking at a press conference in New York on Tuesday, Nadia Tolonnikova and Maria Alyokhina accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of cracking down on dissent and criticized Russian authorities for spending an exorbitant amount of resources on the games, which open on Friday. The women were released from Russian prisons in December after serving nearly two years for hooliganism.

Russian opposition leaders have estimated the country has spent $45.8 billion to $51 billion on the Winter Olympics -- as much as half lost on corruption. The Pussy Riot members, too, fiercely condemned the Olympic spending spree, arguing that the games do little for ordinary Russians.

"We would like for Americans to really look at Russia and see the country behind the Olympic buildings and objects," Alyokhina said. "The only thing that these objects have to do with the country is the taxpayers' money that has been stolen to raise them."

The activists also urged world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, to speak out on the human rights situation in Russia during visits to the country. "We call on President Obama to publicly say how you feel about Russia the next time you visit the country," Tolonnikova said.

Tolonnikova and Alyokhina, who were released from prison under an amnesty law in December after having served 21 months in detention on hooliganism charges for a protest performance in a Moscow cathedral, are in New York for a Feb. 5 appearance at Amnesty International's benefit “Bringing Human Rights Home” at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Tolonnikova and Alyokhina are also scheduled to visit several detention centers in New York state to evaluate the treatment of prisoners in the U.S. The visits are part of the activists' ongoing efforts to advocate for prisoners' rights in their home country and around the globe.

"What happened to us doesn't stand out from other cases," Tolonnikova said. "It keeps happening in Russia right now."

The activists pointed to the case of 12 Russian protesters who are currently facing "mass rioting" charges in connection with massive demonstrations on the eve of Putin's inauguration in 2012. A report on the case ordered by eight international human rights organizations concluded that the charges are "inappropriate" and "disproportionate."

"A lot of people are unjust in jail right now and we expect the number of people to rise in the near future," Alyokhina said at the press conference.

Both activists emphasized, however, that they will keep up their criticism of Putin and his government, despite the authorities' harsh crackdown on political dissent.

"We're proud that we landed in prisons for our political views," Alyokhina concluded.

Also on HuffPost:

Pussy Riot
of
Share
Tweet
Advertisement
Share this
close
Current Slide

Suggest a correction