Advertisement
This story is over 5 years old
News by VICE

Pussy Riot Flogged at Sochi Protest

In Sochi this afternoon, uniformed Cossacks attacked members of the protest group Pussy Riot with pepper spray and whips.

by Simon Ostrovsky
Feb 19 2014, 10:45pm

Simon Ostrovsky

In Sochi this afternoon, uniformed Cossacks attacked members of the protest group Pussy Riot with pepper spray and their own distinctive trademark: the horse whip. Just moments earlier, Nadya Tolokonnikova, Masha Alyokhina, and a handful of other members headed out of a cafe toward the Sochi seaport, where they prepared to perform. As they were putting on their trademark neon ski masks, about a dozen Cossacks descended on the group, thrashing them with whips, throwing them to the ground, and kicking them as police officers stood by.

The police allowed the mini-pogrom, which was a pretty one-sided affair, to continue for about 10 minutes. Only after members of Pussy Riot demanded that the police write an official report and make arrests did they detain just one of the Cossacks, for questioning.

Russia has fielded hundreds of Cossacks in Sochi for the Olympics to help the police maintain public order. This state-supported militia force, with its signature fur hats and riding boots, can be seen all throughout the Olympic host city during the Winter Games.

The incident took place against a backdrop of arrests and detentions of opponents of the Russian authorities and the Olympics. These critics have alleged that massive corruption and environmental damage took place during preparations for Sochi 2014. Pussy Riot said that they came to the city to record a protest song to draw attention to the detention of Yevgeny Vitishko, an environmentalist. Vitishko was recently sentenced to three years in prison for supposedly violating the terms of a suspended sentence he received for painting graffiti on the fence of a pro-Kremlin governor’s residence, which was built in a national forest. Amnesty International maintains that Vitishko’s conviction was politically motivated, and considers him a prisoner of conscience.

Pussy Riot finally accomplished what the group had come to Sochi to do, recording their first protest song since being released from prison: “Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland.” In an interview with VICE News, Tolokonnikova responded to detractors who have claimed that she and Alyokhina are no longer true members of the protest group by saying, “Anyone can be a member of Pussy Riot, you just need to put on a mask.”


Photo: Simon Ostrovsky

A male member of Pussy Riot bleeds after being beaten by Cossacks in Sochi. Photo: Djavid Hakim

To keep up with Simon's coverage of the 2014 games follow him on Twitter @SimonOstrovsky