Pussy Riot members arrested at Winter Olympics

Tuesday 18 February 2014 21.48
Nadzehda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina during an appearance on RTÉ's Saturday Night Show
Nadzehda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina during an appearance on RTÉ's Saturday Night Show

Two members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot, who were released from prison colonies late last year, say they have been arrested in Sochi.

"We have been arrested ... and are accused of robbery," Nadzehda Tolokonnikova wrote on her Twitter account.

Her bandmate, Maria Alyokhina, said they had been detained on suspicion of committing a crime, but did not give details.

They were arrested in central Sochi, 30km from the main Olympic venues.

President Vladimir Putin has been a regular presence at venues in Sochi on the coast and up in the Caucasus Mountains.

Both women said police used force and threw them in a police van.

The two had recently returned to Russia after a tour through Europe and the United States.

They were released from prison in December under an amnesty that Ms Tolokonnikova said was a stunt by Mr Putin to improve Russia's image before the Olympics.

They had been serving two-year jail terms for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after performing a protest song against Mr Putin in Moscow's main cathedral in February 2012.

"At the time of our detention, we weren't engaged in any protests, we were walking around Sochi. WE WERE WALKING," Ms Tolokonnikova said on Twitter.

The two women were in Sochi with other members of Pussy Riot to record a musical film called "Putin will teach you to love the motherland", Ms Tolokonnikova's husband said on his Twitter.

Amnesty International has called for Russian authorities to immediately release nine people, including other activists and journalists, arrested in central Sochi.

In a statement, John Dalhuisen, Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International, said: "In Putin's Russia, the authorities have turned the Olympic rings - a worldwide symbol of hope and striving for the best of the human spirit - into handcuffs to shackle freedom of expression."

He said there are almost daily reports of arrests of activists in Sochi and the Olympic Games area.

He called on the International Olympic Committee to condemn these and all arrests of activists near Sochi.

Among those arrested in recent days were Semyon Simonov of the human rights centre Memorial, journalists from Radio Free Europe and the Russian independent daily Novaya Gazeta, and local civil rights activist David Hakim.