SOCHI, Russia — With just five days to go before the Olympic torch goes out — and the worldwide attention on Sochi dims — Russia’s protest movement is starting to make noise in this Black Sea resort.
Tuesday it was two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, in their trademark neon-colored ski masks, chanting a song mocking President Vladimir Putin as they left a police station.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, amnestied by Putin and freed from prison two months ago, were detained by police with several other people Tuesday for about four hours. The women said in their Twitter accounts that they had been picked up in downtown Sochi and roughed up before they were released. No charges were filed.
Alexander Popkov, the lawyer for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, said they had been detained Sunday for failing to show their passports, and again Monday when they were picked up with several activists near the border of Georgia’s breakaway region, Abkhazia. Popkov said police said the group had “violated the rules for being near a border.”
Putin, determined to silence allegations of corruption and environmental damage during preparations for the Olympics, clamped down on protests in Sochi during the Games.
A deserted park distant from both the Olympic venues and Sochi center is the only place demonstrations can be held legally, and only by those who receive official permission. To date, no rallies critical of the government have been staged there.
One of the detainees Tuesday was David Khakim, who was sentenced to 30 hours of labor Monday for staging the first public protest since the Games began. Khakim was arrested as he held a sign calling for the release of an imprisoned environmental activist, Yevgeny Vitishko.
Popkov said the Pussy Riot members had come to Sochi to record the song they were singing as they left the police station: “Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland.”
Tolokonnikova said on her Twitter feed that the performers were in Sochi with “the goal of staging a Pussy Riot protest.” She said the song is devoted to detained Russian activists, including Vitishko, as well as “Olympic corruption, and the suppression of freedom in Russia.”
Not that this was necessarily the band’s intention, but the sight of its members in their bright orange, blue, pink, and green ski masks, singing the song, pushing their way through a crowd of journalists, then running down the street, is a good bet to make it into the next Pussy Riot video.
The group is known for turning its actions into music videos, the most famous being the “punk prayer” Pussy Riot performed after barging into Moscow’s main cathedral in 2012. The lyrics entreated the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Putin, who was about to begin his third term as president.
Putin declared that the women needed to be punished, and Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sentenced to two years in prison, to much international protest. With the Sochi Olympics approaching in December, the two were released under an amnesty bill.