Tue, Sep 04, 2012 - Page 7 News List

I love Russia, hate Putin: jailed Pussy Riot activist

AFP, BERLIN

One of the three members of punk band Pussy Riot jailed last month for a protest in a Russian cathedral launched a fierce new attack on Russian President Vladimir Putin in a magazine interview.

“I love Russia but I hate Putin,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the German news weekly Der Spiegel, in a handwritten answer to questions the magazine submitted to her via her lawyer from her jail cell.

Tolokonnikova, considered the leader of the group, also told the weekly she wanted to see a revolution in Russia.

“The Putin system ... does not belong in the 21st century,” she wrote.

“It is much more reminiscent of primitive societies or the dictatorial regimes of the past,” she added.

A Moscow court jailed Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich for two years last month for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

They had burst into Russia’s main cathedral wearing their trademark balaclavas and shouted out a few lines of their protest song on Feb. 21, in which they call on the Holy Virgin to drive Putin from power.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, 22 and 24 respectively, are both mothers of young children. Fellow band member Samutsevich is 30 years old.

The judge ruled that the performance displayed “clear disrespect toward society.”

However, in her interview with Der Spiegel, Tolokonnikova insisted she had no regrets.

“When all is said and done, I think that the trial against us was important because it showed the true face of the Putin system,” she said.

“This system has handed down a judgment on itself by condemning us for two years in prison without our having committed a crime,” she added.

“Obviously, that delights me,” she said.

During the trial itself she showed her defiance by wearing a t-shirt that bore the revolutionary slogan “No pasaran!” (“They shall not pass!”).

“I am fighting so that my [four-year-old] daughter can grow up in a free country,” she said in her response to Der Spiegel.

Conditions in the prison were bearable, she told the weekly.

“Despite everything it is a Russian prison with all its Soviet charm,” she wrote. “There hasn’t been a lot of progress: the prison is a mix of barracks and hospital.”

She spent a lot of her spare time reading, she added: from the Bible to the works of the Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

“The lack of freedom of movement does not restrict the freedom to think,” she wrote.

Lawyers for the trio said last week that they were appealing the sentence against them.

Their conviction has already been sharply condemned by the US and major European powers as another example of freedoms coming under pressure with Putin in power.

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