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Maria Alyokhina in a Moscow courtroom in December

A leading member of the Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, has been briefly detained in Russian-occupied Crimea for the second time in two days.

An RFE/RL correspondent reported that police detained Alyokhina and local activist Aleksei Yefremov in a cafe in the Crimean city of Simferopol on February 27.

The move came after they were confronted by several men in traditional Cossack military uniforms who called themselves members of "Crimea's self-defense."

Human rights activists later said that Alyokhina was brought to a police station.

RFE/RL correspondent Anton Naumlyuk said that Alyokhina and Yefremov were taken to the police station to give statements about the incident in the cafe, and not because the protest they staged in support of jailed filmmaker Oleh Sentsov.

Naumlyuk said that Alyokhina subsequently left the police station.

On February 26, Alyokhina and two other Pussy Riot members, Olga Borisova and Aleksandr Sofeyev, were detained in different parts of Simferopol and taken to a local medical office for tests. It was not clear why the tests were performed.

The trio was later released, and for some time Borisova and Sofeyev's whereabouts were unknown.

But RFE/RL's Naumlyuk later reported that Borisova and Sofeyev had already returned to Moscow.

The trio had said it planned to stage a protest on the Ukrainian peninsula in support of Sentsov.

In August, Alyokhina and Borisova were detained and fined after staging a protest near the remote prison in Siberia where Sentsov is serving a 20-year prison sentence on terrorism charges that he and supporters say are groundless.

Sentsov is from Crimea, the Ukrainian region that Russia forcibly seized in March 2014.

Pussy Riot achieved prominence in 2012 after Alyokhina and fellow Pussy Riot performer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for a stunt in which band members burst into Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral and sang a "punk prayer" against then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was campaigning for his return to the presidency at the time.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were close to the end of their two-year prison sentences when they were freed in December 2013, under an amnesty they dismissed as a propaganda stunt to improve Putin's image ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

They have focused largely on fighting for the rights of prisoners since their release.

Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee

Presidential candidate and journalist Ksenia Sobchak has called for an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma’s International Relations Committee.

In a statement posted on her campaign website on February 27, Sobchak said that if the allegations are true, "such actions by a deputy would be a direct violation of" the law on the status of members of the Federation Council and the State Duma.

Slutsky, who is a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), has denied the allegations, which were made by at least three female journalists who cover the Duma.

TASS reported on February 27 that the Duma's Ethics Committee had not received Sobchak's complaint.

In response to the allegations, deputy Duma speaker Igor Lebedev, also from the LDPR, proposed revoking the Duma accreditations of Dozhd journalists.

On February 22, Zhirinovsky appeared on independent TV Dozhd and journalist Yelizaveta Antonova, who covers the Duma, asked him if he was aware that Slutsky "constantly harasses young female journalists." Zhirinovsky said he would look into it. The following day, two additional journalists, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Dozhd they had been harassed by Slutsky.

A Dozhd producer claimed Slutsky had tried to kiss and grope her before an on-air appearance.

Slutsky on February 23 told the newspaper Vedomosti that the accusations were "an election-campaign provocation."

Duma Deputy Oksana Pushkina said the scandal around Slutsky had prompted her to introduce amendments to a draft law on gender equality that would criminalize sexual harassment.

"If there are facts," she told Kommersant about the Slutsky case, "then the matter should be carried to its conclusion. This [behavior] is flourishing in our society."

In recent months, a vigorous campaign against sexual harassment and sexual assault in the United States has led to accusations against numerous high-profile men including movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Louis C.K.

In Russia, however, the campaign has been generally mocked, and a small demonstration in support of Weinstein was held in front of the U.S. Embassy in November 2017.

"Thank God we live in a country where political correctness hasn't reached the absurd," Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky told Izvestia in November. "When you can't call a man a man, a woman a woman, and you have to call them a person."

In April 2014, Zhirinovsky was censored and apologized for an outburst in which he ordered his aides to rape a pregnant reporter:

He later claimed he had been on medication at the time.

With reporting by Dozhd, Vedomosti, TASS, and Kommersant

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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