Sunday, April 20, 2014


Russia

Pussy Riot Members Want Khodorkovsky For President

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (right) and Maria Alyokhina at a Moscow news conference on December 27.
Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (right) and Maria Alyokhina at a Moscow news conference on December 27.
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By RFE/RL
The recently freed members of the performance art collective Pussy Riot say they still want Russian President Vladimir Putin out of power and would like to see him replaced by former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, made their comments about Khordorkovsky at a Moscow news conference on December 27.

The two said they have started a project called Law Zone that will focus on defending the rights of inmates and improving conditions in Russian penitentiaries.

They said they would like to work on the project along with opposition figure Aleksei Navalny; Sergei Vlasov, the coordinator of a group defending inmates' rights in Russia; as well as Khodorkovsky himself.

"For us, [Khodorkovsky] is important, because he's a very strong person, a very tough person, and an incredible human being who went through a much tougher and much longer prison experience than we did," said Tolokonnikova. "And that's why he's very valuable for us. He will work in the field of human rights protection in prisons, and that's why we have to count on him."

Alyokhina said she was "in solidarity" with the idea of Khodorkovsky becoming president. She also gave her take on Putin.

"In my view, Putin is under the influence of the power structures," she said. "He and his policies are an embodiment of the methods of the actions of the siloviki [the security services]. It's all about endless conspiracy [theories], endless suspicion."

Alyokhina also accused the Russian Orthodox Church of playing a role in their jailing. She offered no details.

Tolokonnikova said she believes her release, as well as that of Aloykhina and Khodorkovsky, was not due to Putin's "humanism," but rather to domestic and international pressure ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

"With the Olympics approaching, Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] does not want his favorite project ruined," Tolokonnikova said.

Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina, and fellow activist Yekaterina Samutsevich were imprisoned for two years on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing an anti-Putin punk song in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012.

"For us, the punk prayer in the Christ the Savior Cathedral is not very important anymore," said Tolokonnikova. "We are different people now. We lived through a long life in prison. It is a totally different reality from the one you live. And this common experience unites us now much more than our joint participation in the punk prayer in the Christ the Savior Cathedral."

Samutsevich had her sentence suspended after several months in jail, but Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were jailed until their release last week after a Russian prison amnesty passed by parliament on December 18.

Khodorkovsky, who had been jailed for a decade, was pardoned by Putin in a surprise move on December 20.

Tolokonnikova emphasized that Khodorkovsky will not be asked to provide financial assistance for their Law Zone project.

"I want to clarify this immediately because there were overly serious rumors on this topic," she said. "When we offered to cooperate with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, we were not talking about financial cooperation at all."


With reporting by AFP

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