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Vol. 78/No. 7      February 24, 2014

Pussy Riot in NY: Fight for ‘Russia
without Putin,’ prisoners’ freedom
(front page)
NEW YORK — “We demand a Russia that is free and a Russia without Putin,” said Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who appeared at an Amnesty International-sponsored concert at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn Feb. 5 together with band member Maria Alyokhina. Putin is the former KGB political police lieutenant colonel who is now president of Russia.

During their one-week visit here they pledged to speak out in defense of prisoners’ rights in Russia and elsewhere. They visited with workers incarcerated at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island and met with women living in a halfway house in West Harlem.

Jacqueline Moore, 54, who told the New York Times she served 16 years for manslaughter, hugged the two Russian women as they left the halfway house, telling them to keep fighting for women’s rights.

“We wouldn’t just come here for the concert,” Tolokonnikova told the Times Feb. 9 after visiting the halfway house. “You can learn a lot about a place by its prisons,” Alyokhina said.

“First to the prisons!” will be how all future foreign visits will begin, they said.

At the Barclay Center they called for the release of a group of demonstrators who could be sentenced later this month for participation in a march of some 20,000 against Putin on the eve of his inauguration in 2012.

Those prisoners have been treated much more harshly than Pussy Riot ever was, Alyokhina said. They deserve attention “more than we do,” she added.

“I expect that, sooner or later, the voice of the people will become so loud that you can’t ignore it,” Tolokonnikova said.

“In the two years since the act for which we were imprisoned, the situation in Russia has gotten so much worse. And if we couldn’t keep quiet about it then, we certainly won’t keep quiet about it now,” Tolokonnikova told the Times editorial board in a Feb. 5 interview.

The two women also solidarized with the protest movement against Russian domination in the Ukraine, “saying they hope it creates an infectious spirit in Russia,” the Times said.

Alyokhina, 25, and Tolokonnikova, 24, were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison after punk band Pussy Riot performed a brief “prayer” Feb. 21, 2012, protesting against the political repression and policies of Putin’s government in Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ. A third convicted member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 31, received a suspended sentence at an October 2012 appeal hearing.

“I saw this little totalitarian machine, what it is like from inside,” Tolokonnikova told Russia’s TV Rain when she walked out of prison Dec. 23. “Russia is really built on the model of the [penal] colony. Therefore it is so important to change the colony now, so as to change Russia along with the colony.”

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Prison abuses and torture in Cyprus fuel protests, suicides
Gov’t challenges right to public trial in NY frame-up ‘terror’ case
Socialist Workers Party victory against FBI spying has lasting effect on class politics
‘Fifty Years of Covert Operations in the US: Washington’s Political Police and the American Working Class’ published by Pathfinder Press
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