Pussy Riot’s Masha Alyokhina escapes Russia as Putin cracks down on dissidents

The artist and activist has been arrested and imprisoned multiple times for openly speaking out against the Russian president

Pussy Riot’s Masha Alyokhina has escaped from Russia as president Vladimir Putin continues to crack down on dissidents in the country.

Alyokhina, along with her bandmates, has been arrested and imprisoned multiple times over the past decade and more for publicly protesting Putin’s rule, most recently last year when she was detained for 48 hours after attending protests encouraging others to protest on social media.

Amid the continued Russian invasion of Ukraine, a new story in The New York Times reveals that Alyokhina was under house arrest and, when authorities decided to turn that into a 21-day jail sentence last month, she decided to flee Russia.

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The story outlines Alyokhina’s escape, which included posing as a food courier and being placed on Russia’s wanted list after being refused entry into Belarus on account of her Russian passport having been confiscated by authorities.

The report then reveals that Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson was able to assist Alyokhina in getting her a travel document from a European country that allowed her to travel freely from Russia to the EU. It adds that she has now travelled to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

“I still don’t understand completely what I’ve done,” she said in the piece. “A lot of magic happened last week. It sounds like a spy novel.”

Pussy Riot’s Masha Alyokhina

The members of Pussy Riot were imprisoned in August 2012 for their now infamous “punk prayer” protest in Moscow’s Cathedral Of Christ The Savior in February of that year.

Alyokhina went on hunger strike the following year after she was refused the right to attend her parole hearing and told NME from her prison camp that she would not flee Russia after she was freed.

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Earlier this year, her bandmates Nadya Tolokonnikova and Nika Nikulshina were labelled as “foreign agents” by the Russian government.

Being referred to as a “foreign agent” in Russia carries implications of spying, and was introduced in 2012. All those with the label are required by law to label all social media posts to indicate such status.

The Russian justice ministry said in a statement: “These people systematically distribute materials to an indeterminate circle of persons, while receiving foreign funds.”

Pussy Riot have said they will not comply with the order and aim to tackle it in court. Their Twitter bio now refers to themselves as “foreign spies” and they wrote on the platform: “THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT.

“Two of Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Nika Nikulshina, were added to the government list of “foreign agents” & required to start every tweet w this disclaimer.”

Adding an “official reaction in a second tweet, they wrote:

“1. lol

2. We will not label my posts, the government can label their asses if they’d like.

3. We will appeal in court.

4. Russia will be free.”

Tolokonnikova then spoke out in a new interview against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, calling the Russian leader “insane”.

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