Two members of the Russian political punk rock collective Pussy Riot were detained Aug. 7 for organizing a protest near the penal colony in Yakutsk, East Siberia, where Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is imprisoned. In what Russian authorities claimed was an “unauthorized rally,” Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Olga Borisova placed a “Free Sentsov” banner on a bridge visible to many residents in the area, while setting off blue and red flares.
Sentsov, who comes from the Crimean peninsula, was outspoken in opposing Moscow’s March 2014 annexation of the region. He was actively involved in Euromaiden protests that toppled the Russian-backed regime of Victor Yanukovych a year earlier and helped evacuate Ukrainian servicemen who were blockaded in Crimea after the Russian takeover there. Russian federal police arrested him on frame-up charges of conspiracy to commit terror attacks. Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Russian military court in August 2015.
Filmmakers and other artists around the world have continued to protest and demand Sentsov’s freedom. His case, along with the related frame-up and imprisonment of fellow Crimean Oleksandr Kolchenko, are “key political issues” in Russia, Pussy Riot says on their Facebook page.