Pussy Riot condemn Russian media at Amnesty International event

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina were watched by an audience including Django Django, Viv Albertine and Jamie Hince

Pussy Riot‘s Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina spoke out against Vladimir Putin’s control of the Russian media at an Amnesty International event on Friday evening (November 14).

In her opening remarks, Alekhina said: “When the media isn’t giving true information, people cannot choose. People will just keep choosing the only option that they are shown, in this case that’s Vladimir Putin. I really wish it were possible to have accurate channels of information.”

The pair were watched by an audience that included Amnesty campaigners who had fought for their release and a number of fellow artists and musicians. Django Django drummer and producer David Maclean took the opportunity to ask Tolokonnikova and Alekhina whether there’s a comparison to be drawn between Russian actions in the Crimea and American and European interventionism in the Middle East. Tolokonnikova replied: “Obviously we do see similarities but every time we talk to leftists and hear these comparisons being made we’re saddened. Of course, the man who is the biggest fan of comparing Russian foreign policy to Western foreign policy is Vladimir Putin, because he says what he’s doing is exactly the same. It’s oversimplifying things to compare Russian actions in the Crimea to American interventionism in the Middle East, so we think these interventions should be analysed separately.”

Former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine asked whether a new generation of Russian girls had been inspired by the actions of Pussy Riot, or whether the government’s treatment of them had in fact discouraged protest. Tolokonnikova argued that even if they’ve inspired a small number then that’s significant in Russia: “At the end of the day, we inspired people to be less afraid. A lot of people started their political activity because of our involvement with the law. There’s different value to someone going to a political rally in England than in Russia, so even if we’ve only inspired a few 100 people that has tremendous value in modern Russia.”

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina are in London for the first time since their release from prison in December last year. They spoke at the Cambridge Union Society over the weekend, and their tour will continue with a London event hosted by The Guardian this evening. Tomorrow they will be speaking at a Henry Jackson Society event to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of murdered lawyer-turned-whistleblower Sergey Magnitsky. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina recently called on the US congress to add 16 officials to the Magnitsky list of human rights violators who face US sanctions.

In August 2012, Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment following an anti-Putin performance in Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The protest attracted support from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and Aung San Suu Kyi. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina have been keeping busy since their early release from prison. In September, they launched MediaZona, an independent news outlet which focuses on Russia’s justice system, as well as the NGO Zona Prava, which focuses on the need for prison reform in Russia.
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