World News

Freed Russian Punk Musicians to Work for Prisoners' Rights

Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, released this week after two years in detention, say they plan to continue their activism but will focus their energies on human rights -- specifically, the rights of prisoners.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spoke to reporters Friday in a Moscow news conference, their first since being released from prison earlier this week.

Alyokhina said work must be done to improve prison conditions. She said people in prison have difficulty finding jobs after their release. And she said activists must be the ones to help decrease the crime rate and the number of repeat offenses, because, in her words, government authorities will not do it.

Tolokonnikova added that the women are starting work on a human rights project that they plan to fund through crowdsourcing . She said they hope to work with oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was also recently pardoned and released after a decade in prison -- but she said they wanted his ideological cooperation, rather than his money. She said they do not plan to ask anyone for financial assistance.



The Pussy Riot musicians left their prisons in the Siberian city Krasnoyarsk Monday, hours apart. Both women have called their release a public relations stunt by the Russian government ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Tolokonnikova told reporters as she left prison that Russia is trying to prevent a possible boycott of the games. She urged people to remember less known prisoners who remain in jail.

Alyokhina said she would have preferred to remain in prison. She said her release was not "a humanitarian act."

The two women had been due to be released in March 2014. They were freed early after the Russian parliament passed an amnesty bill last week allowing for the release of thousands of inmates. The Pussy Riot band members qualified for the amnesty in part because they have young children.

The third member of the band, Yekarterina Samutsevich, was released and had her sentence suspended in 2012.

The women were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a punk prayer against President Vladimir Putin on the altar of Russia's most prominent Orthodox church in early 2012.

Pussy Riot was protesting against the Orthodox church's support for Mr. Putin during his run for an third term as president. The jailing of the band members had sparked protests around the world with critics saying it was part of the Kremlin's growing clampdown on dissent.













SOUND BITES:

Pussy Riot 1 (Tolokonnikova, in Russian) "This is great, I am so happy that we came to Moscow. But we are very much in a hurry now, we have a lot of things to do, sorry. See you at the press conference."

Pussy Riot 2: (Alekhina, in Russian) "If we want a decrease in the crime rate, if we want thousands of people to be released, not with thoughts about repeated offenses, but with constructive ones, then we must work on it, and this is our job. The authorities will not do it."

Pussy Riot 3: (Alekhina, in Russian) "People absolutely have no idea what is going on in prisons. And the worst thing is that the majority of people aren't even interested in it. Nowadays, it is more convenient to exclude a person with a conviction, one who was in prison. And that person has difficulties finding a job. People move the prison topic away from their lives."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs