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'Virtually Impossible' For Oppositionists To Be In Sochi, Says Tolokonnikova

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina say they were detained in Sochi on February 18. While in detention, Tolokonnikova spoke with Mark Krutov of RFE/RL's Russian Service.

RFE/RL: Can you tell us where you are and what is happening to you right now?

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: At this point we are being detained. We are being placed in a small cage in a car belonging to the Interior Ministry in Sochi. That is the third time [we have been detained] during our staying in Sochi. On the 16th [of February] we were detained for 10 hours at a police station. Yesterday we were detained at the FSB [Federal Security Service]. Today we have been detained as well and I was very painfully beaten.

Our presence in Sochi is being hindered as such. We arrived here three days ago and we kept being detained on each and every one of these days. We are running out of patience today as now they came up with criminal charges against us.

A [police] employee approached us today and said to me that I, Tolokonnikova, am suspected in a theft that occurred in the hotel I am staying in.

RFE/RL: Were you planning to carry out some sort of actions in Sochi?

Tolokonnikova: Yes, we managed a number of performances in the city of Sochi. However, at this moment we have been detained regardless of any performances as we were simply enjoying a walk in the city. [We were detained] as we entered the seaport district of Sochi.

RFE/RL: You are saying you have already staged some performances, can you tell us more about them?

Tolokonnikova: Unfortunately, I must say that it is virtually impossible for an opposition activist to be in Sochi. They simply prevent us from moving around the city. Our cars kept being stopped by traffic police. Once we decided to switch to public transport they came up with a new excuse [to stop us], which is to bring criminal charges against us. Thus voicing any dissent against the policies of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin is completely ruled out in this city.

RFE/RL: You are in Sochi with Maria Alyokhina and some other members of the band, is that so?

Tolokonnikova: In addition to us, there are four more members of Pussy Riot here. Alyokhina has just been placed into a very cramped, narrow and dark cage [in a police vehicle]. I have been seated in a [police] car while Alyokhina has been locked under totally unbearable conditions together with another person.

RFE/RL: How long were your previous detentions in Sochi?

Tolokonnikova: At around eight o'clock on [February] 16 we were at the Adler [police] station of Sochi. This particular detention had nothing to do with our activities as we had been stopped and detained while going on a highway by car. We did manage to stage a couple of performances. However, that particular detention was not related to them. They kept detaining us in order to prevent us from doing anything at all. We managed to break away from the police a couple of times and stage some small performances but the bulk of our time [in Sochi] we are spending in police [detention]. Yesterday [February 17] we were detained by the FSB."

After we had been detained for the first time on February 16 [by the traffic police] we called the [traffic police] inspectorate's hotline to complain about our unlawful detention and we were told that our detention was required by the FSB -- plain and simple -- as we are on the FSB's wanted list.

RFE/RL: Have your performances managed to draw the attention of Sochi residents or maybe even athletes who also come to downtown Sochi?

Tolokonnikova: I cannot rule out that some sportsmen or women might have seen some of our performances -- it is quite possible they did. I only can say that we will probably be able to show you video materials from [our stay] in Sochi, unless we all end up behind bars right now.

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