Russia: Sochi arrest of Pussy Riot and other activists condemned

‘In Putin’s Russia, the authorities have turned the Olympic rings … into handcuffs to shackle freedom of expression’ - John Dalhuisen
 
The Russian authorities must immediately release nine people - including two Pussy Riot activists - who have been arrested in the Winter Olympics host city Sochi, Amnesty International said. 
 
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina - former prisoners of conscience jailed for their peaceful activism as part of the punk collective Pussy Riot - have reportedly being arrested in Sochi for the third time in as many days. 
 
Today the Russia authorities claimed this was related to a theft at a hotel where they had stayed. 
 
However, Tolokonnikova has said she believes the real reason for their ongoing harassment in Sochi was their plan to film a music video titled “Putin will teach you how to love your Motherland”. Their arrest comes just days before the second anniversary of Pussy Riot’s staging of a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral on 21 February 2012. The event led to the imprisonment of Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and bandmate Yekaterina Samutsevich on “hooliganism” charges.
 
Meanwhile, among those arrested on Sunday by police and plainclothes officials were Semyon Simonov of the human rights centre Memorial, journalists from Radio Free Europe and the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and local human rights activist David Hakim. Hakim was also arrested yesterday for his one-man protest in support of prisoner of conscience Yevgeniy Vitishko, an environmentalist recently jailed for three years in a move seen by Amnesty as an attempt to prevent him from speaking out about the environmental damage caused by the staging of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
 
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:
 
“In Putin’s Russia, the authorities have turned the Olympic rings - a worldwide symbol of hope and striving for the best of the human spirit - into handcuffs to shackle freedom of expression.
 
“This is outrageous. There are reports of arrests of activists in Sochi and the Olympic Games area almost daily. The International Olympic Committee must roundly condemn these and all arrests of activists near Sochi. 
 
“People are being targeted merely for peacefully speaking their minds. The Russian authorities must end this downward spiral of human rights violations around the Olympic Village.” 
 

View latest press releases