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Home News Pussy Riot: Radical punks with message for Putin

Pussy Riot: Radical punks with message for Putin

Published on 07/08/2012

Young and educated, they campaign for the environment and volunteer at children's hospitals. But they also love performing punk music and use it to publicise their shared distaste for President Vladimir Putin.

If prosecutors get their way, that is what may end up putting the radical protest band Pussy Riot behind bars for three years in a verdict expected this week.

The three women have apologised for causing offence by performing their anti-Putin song in an Orthodox Church, but not for their political views — a mixture of liberalism and feminism found among many of their Western contemporaries.

The band formed in August 2011 and soon grabbed headlines with daring impromptu performances in Red Square and at busy metro stations, where their ear-splitting message focused on Kremlin authoritarianism.

The band styled itself on all-girl punk acts like the 1990s US band Bikini Kill and had a revolving cast of members that included the three arrested in March.

— Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22

The photogenic lead singer was born in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth — the Norilsk nickel mining city in the Arctic circle that Stalin developed using Soviet prison labour.

The city lacks any vegetation because of its filthy air and Tolokonnikova escaped to Moscow shortly after graduating high school.

A student at Russia’s top-rated Moscow State University, she and her husband, who have a daughter, are members of performance art group Voina (War). The group has courted controversy by kissing policewomen and painting a 65-metre penis across from a security building.

She has also supported gay and lesbian causes and advocated the staging of the first legal gay pride parade in Moscow.

— Maria Alyokhina, 24

The single mother of a five-year-old son is a Greenpeace member who has campaigned in defence of Lake Baikal and the Khimki forest outside Moscow, where environmentalists were involved in almost daily scuffles with police in 2010.

The campaign proved fertile ground for Russian political activism by developing many of the leaders who spearheaded opposition to Putin’s return to a third presidential term earlier this year.

Alyokhina’s software-engineer mother recently revealed that her daughter was also religious and was only protesting the Church’s open backing for Putin.

She said her daughter spent much of her time teaching creative arts to traumatised children at a Moscow psychiatric hospital.

— Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29

The eldest of the three worked on designing computer software for the Nerpa class nuclear submarine after graduating from a Moscow physics institute.

She left to study photography and eventually graduated from a Moscow multimedia centre.

She joined the Voina performance art group at the same time and was regarded as one of the most active members of the March 2011 campaign to kiss as many policewomen as possible in public.