ARTS & CULTURE
02/06/2014 11:26 am ET Updated Feb 07, 2014

Former Pussy Riot Members Will Return To Russia In Effort To 'Make It A Free Country'

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Two former members of Pussy Riot made their first U.S. appearances this week, gracing the stage of Amnesty International's "Bring Human Rights Home" concert. The duo joined performers Bob Geldof, The Flaming Lips, Cake, Lauryn Hill, Imagine Dragons, Blondie, Yoko Ono and more, in a benefit show meant to raise awareness for prisoners of conscience around the world.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina spoke to crowds at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Wednesday night, just weeks after their release from Russian prison. Introduced by Madonna, who admitted to receiving death threats after standing up for the women and LGBT citizens in Russia, the group led the stadium in a chant of "Russia will be free!" before reading the closing statements of anti-Putin protesters currently being tried in Russia.

"Thank you to all of those who are bold enough and who care enough to speak out against injustice and speak the truth," Alekhina exclaimed to the Barclays audience.

pussy riot amnesty

"At the beginning of Pussy Riot, one of our central thoughts was that musicians bare a social responsibility," Tolokonnikova stated in a press conference before the show, accompanied by Alekhina, Bob Geldof, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, musicians from The Fray and members of Amnesty International. "Music must not always sing about sunshine and love. We must also sing about politics."

The two women reiterated sentiments expressed at a New York press appearance earlier in the month, renewing calls for world leaders to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics.

When asked what Americans can do to enact change with regards to human rights violations in Sochi, Tolokonnikova suggested, "You can boycott actively, where you stage protests or demonstrations here or in Russia. You can stage your own Pussy Riot performance. Because anyone can be a member. Or you can boycott passively... by not going to the Olympics or not writing about Sochi."

They added a simple message for Putin himself. "We want to say to him: Leave!"

As for their future, the women expressed a desire to return to Russia to help "make it a free country." When asked whether the original Pussy Riot group that performed in the Moscow cathedral would still be in tact, Alekhina somewhat dodged the question, emphasizing the inclusive nature of the movement.

"When we were jailed, Pussy Riot became widely known, and changed from a group to a movement. Anyone can put on a mask and stage a protest. Anyone can be a member of Pussy Riot."

pussy riot amnesty

bring human rights home

Singer Lauryn Hill performs at Amnesty International's "Bringing Human Rights Home" Concert at the Barclays Center on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

bring human rights home

Debbie Harry and Blondie perform at Amnesty International's "Bringing Human Rights Home" Concert at the Barclays Center on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

bring human rights home

Sir Bob Geldof performs at Amnesty International's "Bringing Human Rights Home" concert at the Barclays Center on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

bring human rights home

Singer Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips perform with Yoko one and Sean Lennon at Amnesty International's "Bringing Human Rights Home" Concert at the Barclays Center on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

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