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Pussy Riot's Alyokhina Punished For Protest At Russian FSB Headquarters


Russian activist Maria Alyokhina talks with her lawyer at a Moscow court on December 21.

A Moscow court has ordered Pussy Riot punk protest band member Maria Alyokhina to perform 40 hours of community-service work as punishment for a protest she staged at the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB)

Judge Yulia Mordvina ruled on December 21 that Alyokhina violated the law on public gatherings when she and activist Olga Borisova unfurled a banner reading "Happy Birthday, Executioners" at an entrance to the FSB headquarters on Lubyanka Square.

December 20 was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police organization that preceded dictator Josef Stalin's NKVD, the KGB, and post-Soviet Russia's FSB.

Alyokhina and photographer Denis Bochkaryov spent the night at police station ahead of the administrative hearing. They face up to 15 days in jail or a fine.

They were charged with participating in an unsanctioned demonstration that hampers "citizens' access to living space, transportation facilities, or social infrastructure."

The court had yet to rule on Bochkaryov's case. The charge carries a maximum jail term of 15 days, and offenders can also be fined.

Borisova was not detained and another photographer who was detained was released on December 20.

Alyokhina told RFE/RL in a telephone interview on December 20 that the purpose of the group's action was to remind FSB officers about the atrocities by its predecessors in the Soviet Union.

"We decided to come out today and congratulate the chekists, because everybody knows this is considered their holiday," Alyokhina told RFE/RL's Russian Service in a telephone interview from the police station where she was being held.

Officers and employees of the FSB are informally known as "chekists" after the Cheka, the secret police organization that was created by "Iron Feliks" Dzerzhinsky in 1917.

Under President Vladimir Putin, a longtime KGB officer and former FSB chief who has put many people with similar backgrounds in positions of power, December 20 is marked as the Day of the Security Service Workers.

Speaking at a ceremony in Moscow to mark the event on December 20, Putin said that the creation of the Cheka was "an inseparable part of our history" and praised the members of security services as "true statesmen and patriots."

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 in February 2012 and sang a "punk prayer" against then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was campaigning for his return to the presidency later that year.

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 February 2014 Sochi Olympics. They have focused largely on fighting for the rights of prisoners since their release.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Mediazona and Dozhd TV
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