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Pussy Riot members released after being detained in Sochi

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were detained while preparing to perform a new song titled “Putin will teach you how to love the motherland.”
Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina said that they were arrested by police in Sochi, Russia on February 18, 2014. Andrew Gombert/EPA
Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina said that they were arrested by police in Sochi, Russia on February 18, 2014. Andrew Gombert/EPA

SOCHI // Two members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot were released on Tuesday after being detained by police in Sochi, the host city of the Winter Olympics.

No charges were filed against Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who were held along with several other people near the city’s ferry terminal, a popular area for fans celebrating the Olympics.

Seven other people who were detained with them also were released Tuesday.

Police said they were being questioned in connection with a theft at the hotel where they were staying.

Ms Tolokonnikova had written on Twitter that she and Ms Alekhina were stopped and accused of a crime. She said a third member of the loosely organised group also was detained. Local activist Seymon Simonov said the two Pussy Riot members were accused of theft and nine people were held in all.

Ms Tolokonnikova said authorities used “force” during the detention near the ferry terminal area where booths celebrating the Olympics have been set up. The area is about 30 kilometres north of the seaside Olympic venues.

“At the moment of detention, we were not conducting any actions, we were walking in Sochi,” Ms Tolokonnikova wrote on Twitter while being held by police. “We are in Sochi with the goal of staging a Pussy Riot protest. The song is called `Putin will teach you to love the motherland.”’

Ms Alekhina and Ms Tolokonnikova spent nearly two years in prison but were released in December. They were convicted of hooliganism after staging a protest in Moscow’s largest cathedral in opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Pussy Riot has become an international flashpoint for those who contend the Putin government has exceeded its authority in dealing with an array of issues, notably human and gay rights.

Ms Alekhina and Ms Tolokonnikova recently visited the US and Germany to take part in an Amnesty International concert.

The women said their protest performance at the cathedral was aimed at raising concern about the close ties between the church and state.

Russia has put severe limitations on protests in Sochi during the Olympics, ordering that any demonstration must get advance approval and be held only in the neighbourhood of Khosta, an area between Adler and downtown Sochi that is unlikely to be visited by outsiders.

* AP

Updated: February 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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