News Column

US Pussy Riot UPDATE1

February 5, 2014

NEW YORK , Feb. 5 -- ( Kyodo ) _ (EDS: UPDATING WITH CONCERT EVENT) Two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot asked Americans to boycott the winter Olympics in Sochi before a human rights benefit concert held in Brooklyn, New York on Wednesday. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alekhina, 25, were jailed in 2012 for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow cathedral but granted amnesty in December in a move some saw as political posturing by Putin ahead of the Olympics. Speaking through a translator, the women called on Americans to be skeptical of Putin and to boycott the games by staging protests or by refusing to attend them or give them publicity. The two spoke ahead of the Bringing Human Rights Home concert held by Amnesty International . The organization was reviving the human rights concerts it held from 1986 to 1998 to raise awareness of its mission. "As one of our singers said, music must sing not only about sunshine and love. We must also sing about politics, about people behind bars," said Tolokonnikova. When asked about the safety of LGBT athletes and fans at the games, the pair expressed doubt, stating that "our government has been inciting hatred towards the LGBT community" and pointing to incidents of violence against members of the LGBT community. When asked if they wouldn't rather stay in the United States , they answered no. "There is no question about it. ( Russia ) is our country and we want to make it a free country." The two activists told journalists that they do not regret their 21 months behind bars and that the experience spurred them to start a new human rights organization working for Russian prisoners' rights. Madonna later introduced Tolokonnikova and Alekhina on stage during the concert where Yoko Ono , The Flaming Lips, and Lauryn Hill were scheduled to perform. The two Pussy Riot members led the audience in a chant of " Russia will be free!" and asked them to stand in solidarity with Russian protesters who they said are set to be jailed this month.

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Source: Japan Economic Newswire

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