Pussy Riot Plan to Start Human Rights Group, Still Want Putin Gone

Freed punk-activists detail post-prison plans in Moscow press conference

pussy riot, vladimir putin, press conference, prison release
Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Photo by Getty Images
Kyle McGovern WRITTEN BY
Kyle McGovern

Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have announced plans to form a human rights organization. In their first legitimate press conference since being released from prison on December 23, the two activists revealed that they're forming a group called "Zona Prava" (translation: "Justice Zone") that will protect prisoners' rights in their native country of Russia.

"We feel a huge responsibility for people who are in prisons," Tolokonnikova said at the Moscow conference on Friday, as Billboard reports. She and Alyokhina said they hope to work on the project with another recently freed political prisoner, former oil (etc.) tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was released from jail last week after serving 10 years.

"We won't ask anyone for financial assistance," Tolokonnikova told the press, clarifying that they won't accept money from Khodorkovsky and want to collaborate with him "on an ideological level." The group will reportedly be crowd-funded and feature a board that will oversee the financing.

As for other future ventures, the punk protesters said they don't intend to capitalize on the Pussy Riot name or play any upcoming shows. "We are not Pussy Riot right now," Tolokonnikova explained, with Alyokhina adding, "We can promote our cause without playing any shows... And we will never play any shows for money."

In the short term, any arts-related action the two women take will be linked to their latest cause. The pair, who were subjected to harsh conditions during their nearly two years in custody, said they are plotting an arts program for inmates because current circumstances in Russian prisons require a "cultural revolution."

When asked about the possibility of entering politics, Tolokonnikova said, "I wouldn't rule out political plans, but in the near future we will be focused on human rights activities."

Regarding Russian president Vladimir Putin, who recently said he feels "pity" for Pussy Riot, Tolokonnikova said, "We still feel the same about him." She added (via the Associated Press), "We still want to do what we said in our last performance for which we spent two years in prison: drive him away."

Pussy Riot's release under Russian amnesty law has been criticized as a "PR stunt" on Putin's part, in advance of February's Winter Olympics, which are set to take place in the Russian city of Sochi.

"Whether one likes it or not," Tolokonnikova said (via Reuters), "Going to the Olympics in Russia is an acceptance of the internal political situation in Russia, an acceptance of the course taken by a person who is interested in the Olympics above all else: Vladimir Putin."

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