Europe
4:39 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Group Announces 2 Pussy Riot Members Flee Russia

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Russia, three members of a feminist punk band are preparing to appeal their two-year prison sentences. The young women were convicted 10 days ago of hooliganism after staging a protest in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral. The group, Pussy Riot, also announced on Twitter yesterday that two other members who took part in that protest have fled the country to avoid being arrested. The tweet came after police said they were still searching for the activists, who are part of a broader opposition to Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

NPR's Corey Flintoff is on the line with us from Moscow.

Corey, good morning.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So help us understand exactly what's happening. We have the police saying they were still chasing for members of this band and two members have gotten out of the country?

FLINTOFF: Exactly. Well, this is a shoe that's been waiting to drop. You know, there were five Pussy Riot members who took part in the protest at Christ the Redeemer Cathedral last winter and only three of them were arrested and tried. So there was always a question of what happened to the other two.

But in the meantime, of course, the activists are doing everything they can to keep this story alive. There've been a couple of stunts. In fact, even while the sentence was being read at the courthouse last week a woman in a brightly colored balaclava ski mask got up on a fence, and she was chased by an enormous police officer. So that made a good visual for the opposition.

And a little bit later a red car pulled up outside the police lines and started blaring the latest Pussy Riot song, which I'm told is called "Putin Sets the Fires of Revolution." So that's when the police announced they're still looking for the other two Pussy Riot members.

GREENE: The band still getting their message out, I guess. You say that there are five members of the band, but this seems to be a wider network of activists out there. What do we know about other people who are associated with the band?

FLINTOFF: Well, Pussy Riot calls itself a feminist collective. And it says it has at least a dozen members who are active in Russia, possibly more. When I interviewed two of the band members back in February, they insisted on wearing those trademark bright-colored ski masks. And they pointed out that their anonymity is what allows them to add new members anytime they want.

And they also seemed to be kind of advertising for copycats to put on balaclavas and do similar actions elsewhere in Russia. So, you know, Pussy Riot could be a franchise.

GREENE: And so, Corey, we have these two members who have fled Russia. Do we know where they are? Where they might've landed?

FLINTOFF: No. The tweet from the Pussy Riot group said only that they were safely out of the country and that they're recruiting foreign feminists to take part in other actions. But it didn't say where they are.

Pyotr Verzilov, who's the husband of one of the convicted Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, spoke to Reuters yesterday by phone. And he said only that they were beyond the reach of the police. So we don't know if that means they're in a country that has no extradition treaty with Russia.

GREENE: And, Corey, when we spoke, you know, ten days ago when the three members of the band were convicted, we were talking about whether this might be kind of a black eye for Russia since so much of the world was getting involved in, you know, in support of the band members. What can we say so far? I mean, has this caused some problems for Russia's government?

FLINTOFF: Well, one thing about Pussy Riot is that they've gotten a lot more traction outside the country than they have in Russia. About half the Russian population that was polled disapproves of them. But they have been able to attract a lot of international support. You know, they have international pop stars calling for their release, foreign politicians calling for their release. And that all makes its way back to the audience in Russia that they want to reach, which is the sort of intelligentsia, you know, the middle-class people who are part of the opposition here.

GREENE: NPR's Corey Flintoff speaking to us from Moscow. Thanks, Corey.

FLINTOFF: Yeah, thank you, David.

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GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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