News / Europe

A Year On, Pussy Riot Claim a Victory in Russia

August 3, 2012: Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina sit in a glass cage at a court room  in Moscow, Russia. August 3, 2012: Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia.
x
August 3, 2012: Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina sit in a glass cage at a court room  in Moscow, Russia.
August 3, 2012: Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia.
Reuters
Yekaterina Samutsevich has few regrets about the day a year ago when she marched into a Russian Orthodox church with four other members of the Pussy Riot punk band, pulled on a balaclava and reached for her guitar.
       
Guards grabbed her before she could join in the band's "punk prayer'' against Vladimir Putin, and she went on to spend several months in detention before facing trial last year with two bandmates who are still in jail.
       
The protest did not stop Putin winning a presidential election the next month, and demonstrations against the former KGB spy who has dominated Russia since 2000 have lost momentum.
       
But a year on, Samutsevich still regards Pussy Riot's protest as a success, saying it drew attention to what the band regards as Putin's unhealthy and dangerous relationship with the church and a lack of genuine political freedoms.
       
"When we got to the church, we above all wanted to make a video clip and release it,'' the 30-year-old computer programmer said in an interview outside the Christ the Saviour Church, where the band staged its protest on Feb. 21, 2012.
       
Three uniformed police stood watching Samutsevich throughout the interview on a bridge near the church, its golden onion domes and tall white walls towering above her.
       
"We wanted to start a discussion in society, show our negative view of the merging of the church and state ... The problem was raised internationally, the problem of human rights was put sharply into focus,'' she said.
       
"I don't regret the performance. I only regret that they put us in prison. But it's the government, which brought criminal charges, that's guilty in this.''
       
Two of the other band members remain at large and are believed by some to have left the country.

Radical Protest Group
       
Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, were sentenced last August to two years in jail on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, although they denied intending to offend Orthodox Christians.
       
Samutsevich was released in October after hiring a new lawyer who argued successfully that she had not taken part in the performance itself because she was seized by guards before she could start playing her guitar.
       
The change of lawyers and a battle over use of the Pussy Riot brand have prompted speculation about the relationship between the two jailed band members and Samutsevich.
       
But Samutsevich said: "Our relations are good, we are fighting together ... We are not afraid.''
       
Pussy Riot, which describes itself as an art collective of anonymous members, has not, however, carried out any significant protests since the performance a year ago and Samutsevich did not say when there might be another.
       
The Pussy Riot case attracted fierce international criticism, but it divided Russian society. Although opinion polls showed few Russians wanted jail terms for the band members, many saw their profanity-laced protest as sacrilege.
       
Even so, two women showed their sympathy by putting on the band's trademark balaclavas in Christ the Saviour Church on Thursday. They were hauled away by guards.
       
Pussy Riot says it has about 10 to 20 members at any given time and no fixed lineup. Its members hide their faces behind balaclavas, and wear short dresses and mismatched garish tights.
       
The goal, as the group puts it simply, is to change Russia through radical protest.
       
Fading Protests

Critics challenge Pussy Riot's ability to do so, or that of the opposition movement that grew out of protests that began 14 months ago over alleged fraud in a parliamentary election won by Putin's United Russia party.
       
The demonstrations have faded since Putin's re-election as president after four years as premier, and opponents accuse him of cracking down on dissent since then, including by using his party to push repressive laws through parliament.
       
Samutsevich said many Russians saw mass arrests at a protest last May 6, the eve of Putin's inauguration, as a turning point.
       
"Many people have noted that since May 6 there's been a fall [in attendance at rallies]. But in fact it's a clear process and there's an opposition all the same,'' Samutsevich said.
       
"It's just that now, when you go out on to the street, they immediately pack you up and haul you away. We need some other form of protest now.''
       
Life has changed dramatically for Samutsevich since last year's protest in Christ the Saviour. She is now constantly in the public eye and focuses on work related to Pussy Riot rather than her previous job.
       
She dismissed suggestions the protest worked in Putin's favour by enabling him to paint the opposition as sacrilegious liberals and rally support among conservatives.
       
"Many people are now critical of the government and state authorities [because of Pussy Riot]. They see the injustice. The situation has changed,'' she said.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid