Putin’s Afraid of Pussy Riot at the Sochi Olympics

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By Adam Weatherall

2/16/2014

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    All eyes are on Sochi, Russia for the Winter Olympic games exactly as Vladimir Putin planned some 7 years ago, when the bidding process was first “won” by the then Russian Prime Minister, now President Putin. But Vladimir’s eyes are wearily focused upon the dissidents of his country. Whether it be the active battle zone some 300 miles away waged by a resilient Islamic insurgency, or the myriad of other protesters and activists who disagree with the Russian Federations increasingly homophobic policies as well as a whole host PussyRiotof other human rights complaints. The most notable of these range from the foreign born members of the now famous commandeered Greenpeace ship “Arctic Sunrise” whose incarcerated members are known as the “Arctic 30″ to the now infamous activists of the political punk band known as Pussy Riot. If you aren’t familiar with the band Pussy Riot, they first became infamous in 2012 when Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alyokhina, 25, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after storming Moscow’s biggest Orthodox cathedral and beseeching the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin. Their case sparked a global outcry as their punishment was generally seen as excessive and uncalled for. Now the two previously mentioned band mates are touring the U.S. in hopes to raise support for the other incarcerated dissidents of the Russian Federation. Their tour, while seemingly benign being part of an amnesty international concert, seems to have sparked an impressive tit for tat between our Ambassador (Samantha Power) to Russia and her transcontinental counterpart. “Ambassador Samantha Power and the two band members discussed the disturbing trend (in Russia) of legislation, prosecutions and government actions aimed at suppressing dissent and pressuring groups that advocate for fundamental human rights and basic government accountability,” Power’s deputy spokesman Kurtis Cooper said. The Russian Federation leadership has not attempted to hide its anger when Washington criticizes Moscow for its human rights record. The Russian Federation has in turn accused the United States of rights abuses at home, using the Edward Snowden leaks as fodder.

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    Pussy Riot has taken the start of the Sochi Games as an opportunity to enlighten the world to Putin’s increasingly totalitarian regime, briefly visiting the U.S as part of a concert series with Amnesty international. Even having time to sit down with Ambassador Samantha Power and discuss their own case and the plight of many still incarcerated activists within Russia.

Power tweeted that she met “some brave ‘troublemakers’” who then discussed their time in jail.

“I asked Pussy Riot if they were afraid of prison. Their Response: No. In prison we could see the terrible conditions. It is human rights fieldwork,” Power added.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were released in December after nearly two years in prison following a conviction for hooliganism for staging a protest in a Russian church, wearing balaclavas and screaming lyrics.

They came to the U.S. to participate in Amnesty International’s “Bringing Human Rights Home” concert on Wednesday in Brooklyn, where they were to be introduced by Madonna.

When Churkin was asked about Power’s meeting with Pussy Riot at a news conference late Wednesday, he quipped: “She has not joined the band?”

While laughter could be overheard from the journalist in attendance, he said: “I would expect her to invite them to perform in the National Cathedral in Washington. This is my expectation. Maybe they arrange a world tour for them — St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome, then maybe in Mecca in Saudi Arabia and end up with a gala concert at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.”

“If Ambassador Power fell short, I would be disappointed,” Churkin added.

After hearing his comments, Power tweeted: “Ambassador Churkin. I’d be honored to go on tour with Pussy Riot — a group of girls who speak up and stand for human rights. Will you join us?”

“I can’t sing, but if Pussy Riot will have me, Amb Churkin, I say our 1st concert is for Russia’s political prisoners,” she added. This moment that was captured for all of eternity in the digital hall of the twittersphere is what equates to an Ambassadorial burn moment. A “O snap” “No She Didn’t” in the tactical language of highly skilled politicians. I’m not sure if Mrs. Powers 140 characters of verbal vengeance garnered us any ground in the current raised tensions between our two nations, but it at least gained her one more twitter follower.

At Wednesday’s concert, the Pussy Riot pair sought to draw attention to the fate of eight Russian demonstrators who will be sentenced later this month after being charged with mass disorder at a 2012 protest against Putin.

“Pussy Riot in many ways symbolizes the spirit of what Amnesty stands for, which is that we take injustice personally and that we speak truth to power,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general, at a press conference before the concert.

“We do not want anybody to be fooled by what is happening before the Sochi Olympics.”

Three members of the band Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, had been in detention since March of 2012, after they staged a protest against Russian President Vladmir Putin. Quoting “the Guardian”, Pussy Riot member “Squirrel” stated: “Putin is scared of us, can you imagine? Scared of girls. The most important dictator, Putin, is really afraid of people.”

She added: “More specifically, he’s afraid of Pussy Riot. Afraid of a bunch of young, positive, optimistic women unafraid to speak their minds.”

Shortly after their arrest, a Russian artist not directly connected with Pussy Riot sewed his mouth together in support of the incarcerated band members. Petr Pavlensky stood in front of St Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral holding a banner reading ‘Pussy Riot act is a replay of a famous act by Jesus Christ’. Acts like these as well as an extremely large and influential occupy movement have become yet another example of the ever widening gap between Russia’s authoritarian ruling class and it’s people.Which is why the subject of Pussy Riot has become a taboo during the Sochi Winter Olympics.

    Last week at a news conference, Alyokhina a recently freed member of the punk band “Pussy Riot” said “she absolutely did pussy riot forevernot regret the performance that landed her in prison”. When asked what she wants to say to the current President of Russia she responded, “We want to say to him, ‘Leave…” So why is Vladimir Putin’s gaze wearily focused on people like the balaclava clad members of Pussy Riot? Because Pussy Riot and the growing number of other incarcerated dissidents represents the ever expanding number of Russian citizens who are, simply stated, “mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore.” Because as each oppressive law is implemented and imposed on their populace the Russian Federation more and more resembles the Soviet Union of old. The Russian people are intelligent and are well versed in their own history, and therefore cannot so easily be persuaded. Vladimir Putin hopes the world will focus their attention to the bright and shiny spectacle of the winter Olympic games, and turn a blind eye toward the 14 gay rights activists who were tackled and shackled at the very start of the games. Other international media sources seem to want you to pay attention to the roaming packs of dogs or lack of hotel rooms and other amenities. At PowerFist.US, we hope that you take break from this snow blind Olympic celebration masquerading as actual sport. Take just one moment and consider the host nation’s irrational policy toward its gay population. Or perhaps their willingness to prop up a Syrian regime which chemically obliterates its own people. Or maybe just maybe, take a moment and listen to some Pussy Riot. Pussy Riot may not be your type of music, but one thing is for sure, if the world had more courageous souls like them, willing to speak truth to power…one day, Logic will prevail.

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Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall is the political correspondent for PowerFist.Us a company whose mission is to spread truth and justice to all within it's reach, but more specifically to cover news stories that are often times pushed aside by larger media organizations.