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Pussy Riot Members Appear At U.S. Concert


Two formerly jailed members of the Russian punk-rock protest group Pussy Riot have appeared at a concert in the United States, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release detained antigovernment protesters.

After being introduced by pop star Madonna at the Amnesty International benefit in New York late on February 5, Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the crowd: "We demand a Russia that is free and a Russia without Putin."

Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina spoke about rights abuses in Russia but did not perform music.

Madonna introduced them by saying: "It’s time for the rest of the world to be as brave as Pussy Riot and to stand up against people like President Putin" and others who "do not respect human rights."

Earlier, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina met with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.

The meeting prompted a scornful response from Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

Churkin asked journalists if Power had joined Pussy Riot – saying he’d be "disappointed" if Power didn’t arrange Pussy Riot appearances at Washington's National Cathedral, St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

In a tweet, Power replied that she'd be honored to tour with "girls who speak up and stand for human rights," challenging Churkin to join them.

Meanwhile, six members of Pussy Riot have criticized the New York concert.

In a letter posted on the group's blog on February 6, the anonymous members reminded organizers that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had publicly quit the group, choosing instead to pursue a human rights agenda.

The letter also criticized a concert poster featuring a male guitarist in a balaclava, a group trademark, and said selling tickets was contradictory to Pussy Riot's principles.

"We only stage illegal performances in unexpected public places," the letter said.


Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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