Pussy Riot Whip Sochi Attack Into Frenzied Anti-Putin Protest Video

Russian Cossacks cameo in "Putin Will Teach You How to Love" clip

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Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Pussy Riot will teach you how to care about international politics. Yesterday, when news footage emerged of the riot grrrl-inspired activist group's members being whipped by Russian Cossacks as they attempted to shoot a new protest video, it was hard to imagine how their own visuals could be more inflammatory. Pussy Riot must have agreed: At a news conference today in Sochi, host city of the Winter Olympics, Pussy Riot unveiled the video for a new song protesting Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the clip incorporates some of their own disturbing footage from the encounter with the Cossack militia members.

Titled "Putin Will Teach You How to Love," the song might not break new ground musically, but after a contemplative instrumental intro, its scabrous guitars, rolling drums, and furious Russian-language vocals should be a better wake-up call than your last ringtone. The video shows the Pussy Riot members, in their signature balaclavas, performing the song around Sochi. And then there's the blood, the whipping, and the sight of a Cossack, arm raised with the lash, an atavistic silhouette against a blue Olympic backdrop.

According to Billboard, Pussy Riot had intended to debut the video at a press conference in a hotel, but groups helping the activists with their event said the hotel begged off, citing a broken pipe, with a half-hour's notice. Pussy Riot staged the press conference outside instead. Nadezhda "Nadia" Tolokonnikova and Maria "Masha" Alyokhina, the Pussy Riot members who were freed from prison last December, were held for questioning earlier this week in Sochi; that time, the authorities said there'd been a theft in their hotel.

Officials for the Olympics have refrained from taking a stand either way over the whipping incident. International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told Billboard he "found the pictures and the video very unsettling." He reportedly went on to say "it's a shame if the Olympics is used as a political platform" and that "we saw the strong feelings, on both sides, these things can provoke."

On the YouTube page for Pussy Riot's new anti-Putin video, a caption reads, "Freedom to all political prisoners on the May 6 case, to the environmentalist Evgeny Vitishko and all other political prisoners!" The "May 6 case" refers to the people jailed as part of an anti-Putin demonstration on the eve of his inauguration in 2012. Vitishko is an activist jailed days before the Olympics for spray-painting the fence of a residence he said was illegally built on public land. The caption also called others to join Pussy Riot at a Moscow court on February 21, when a judicial ruling on the May 6 case is due.

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