The Two-Way
2:05 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Pussy Riot's Nadya And Masha Detained In Sochi, Then Released

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 11:38 am

The two most prominent members of the Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot say they were taken into custody Tuesday by police in Sochi, site of the Winter Olympics. Later in the day, there were reports that the women and other activists who were with them had been released.

According to The Wall Street Journal:

"Nadezhda Tolokonnikova ['Nadya'] said by telephone from Sochi that she and Maria Alyokhina ['Masha'] had been detained by local police while they were walking along a street in the Black Sea resort Tuesday afternoon. She said they were told they were being held in relations to an alleged theft at their hotel."

Tolokonnikova posted a photo she reportedly snapped while inside the van that took the women and other activists to a police station. NBC's Richard Engel tweets that he's been told by a witness that about 40 people were detained.

Tolokonnikova also said on Twitter that she and Alyokhina have now been detained by authorities in Sochi on each of the past three days. They are at the Olympics to "Carry Out Actions" — protests — she added. But at the time of Tuesday's detention, she wrote, they were only walking on a Sochi street.

According to Tolokonnikova, Pussy Riot wants to perform a song called "Putin Will Teach You to Love Their Homeland" to call attention to the "corrupt" Olympics, inhumane prison conditions and authorities' attempt to "suppress freedoms."

The "ring of steel" that security officials have thrown up around Sochi has been an effort not only to prevent any acts of terrorism, but also to keep Putin's critics from protesting against his government.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, you'll recall, were released from prison just before the Winter Games began — a move widely seen as an effort by Putin's government to improve Russia's international image while the world's attention is focused on Sochi. The women spent nearly two years behind bars after being convicted of "hooliganism" for being part of a 2012 "punk prayer" performance critical of Putin at Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedral.

Earlier this month, the women were in the U.S. They spoke with NPR's David Greene about life in Russia, their protests and prison conditions.

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. Theft Charges Reportedly Dropped:

"Pussy riot made a splash in sochi," NBC's Engel just tweeted. "Husband of one of members says charges of theft dropped."

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina Freed?

"Pussy riot members released. Come out singing. In masks," tweets NBC's Engel. He's also posted a photo. Since the two individuals are in masks, though, we can't say for sure that they are Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina.

Update at 7:55 a.m. ET. Some Released:

From Sochi, NPR's Corey Flintoff reports that an activist who was with the women says nine people are being held.

NBC's Engel tweets that at least three of those who were taken into custody have now been released — but there's been no sighting of Tolokonnikova or Alyokhina.

For coverage of the Winter Games themselves, check The Edge blog.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.