February 05, 2014 < Previous Entry | Next Entry >

Amy Goodman Questions Freed Pussy Riot Members on Olympics, Putin & Obama During 1st U.S. Appearance

Two freed members of the Russian group Pussy Riot made their first public appearance in the United States Tuesday after being released from prison in December. Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina served nearly all of their two-year sentences for protesting Russian leader Vladimir Putin inside an Orthodox cathedral. Shortly after they arrived in New York, the two Pussy Riot members spoke at a news conference organized by Amnesty International.

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman asked them about the upcoming Olympics in Sochi. She also asked, if they each had one question to pose to President Obama and President Putin, what it would be.

"In regards to President Obama, I would say it’s not a question, but more of a call, and this call or appeal is to not be afraid to publicly say your thoughts about what you feel is happening in Russia once you are there during your next visit," Tolokonnikova said. "The question to Vladimir Putin: Aren’t you sick of it all?"

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome, Masha and Nadia, to the United States. On this eve of the Olympics in Sochi, what message do you have for Americans? And if you had a chance to ask both of our leaders one question, President Obama and President Putin, what would you ask each of them?

MARIA ALYOKHINA: [translated] As well as we know, the position of the American political leadership towards the Olympic Games, it’s something like a boycott. But, of course, we’re talking here about the political leadership, not about U.S. citizens who will of course be in Russia during these games. So it’s important to make a statement towards these people, American citizens who will be in Sochi. We would like for Americans to really look at Russia and see Russia beyond the images of Olympic objects and buildings. These objects have no relation to Russia; they are foreign objects in Russia. The only thing which connects these objects to the country is taxpayer money, which has been stolen and which has been used to build up these Olympic objects.

NADIA TOLOKONNIKOVA: [translated] So, in regards to President Obama, I would say it’s not a question, but more of a call. And this call and appeal is to not be afraid to publicly say your thoughts about what you feel is happening in Russia, once you are there during your next visit. The question to Vladimir Putin: Aren’t you sick of it all?

BUZZFEED REPORTER: So you guys started out as performance artists before becoming the activists that we know today because of your experience. What do you think you can achieve through activism that you couldn’t achieve through performance art? And will we ever see you as artists again?

NADIA TOLOKONNIKOVA: [translated] Well, we didn’t become activists; we always were activists. So, the moment when a member of Pussy Riot put on a balaclava, it’s just that they stay—they still have the role of being a political activist, an environmental activist, and basically nothing changes here. It’s only difference of who speaks and how speaks, and in our case, when we’re without the mask, when we just speak publicly.

MARIA ALYOKHINA: [translated] There will be performances, and they will be connected to our new activities and to our former activities as Pussy Riot, as well.

NADIA TOLOKONNIKOVA: [translated] It’s absolutely impossible to take this out of us, and I understand this every time I see some good music—The Clash, for example.

RACHEL FELDMAN: Yeah, Rachel Feldman, Fox News. What is your ultimate goal? And are you afraid to go back to prison?

MARIA ALYOKHINA: [translated] Well, we always get asked this question of how and will be back in prison, and for some reason everyone thinks that we have to be afraid of it. If a person lands in prison for his critique of the political leadership of his country, this simply demonstrates the political situation in the country. So, in this case, we are proud that we landed in prison in Russia for demonstrating our political views, and do not see anything scary in that.

NADIA TOLOKONNIKOVA: [translated] Our goal is to make more transparent, to bring more transparency both to the Russian political system and to the Russian penitentiary system. And this is connected completely with everything we are doing right now.

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