SOCHI, Russia (AFP) ― The two best-known members of Pussy Riot on Wednesday said they had been beaten and attacked with horsewhips during an action hostile to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Winter Olympics host city Sochi.
The scuffles came a day after the protest punk band’s members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were detained by police in the Russian Black Sea resort for several hours on Tuesday in connection with a theft case.
The latest fracas over their stay in Sochi came as the International Olympic Committee warned the girls that it would be “wholly inappropriate” to stage actions outside the Olympic venues.
The clash took place as Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and one other Pussy Riot member sought to stage an action in the center of Sochi, about 30 kilometers north of the main Olympic Park.
They donned the colored balaclavas and tights that are their group’s trademark but were immediately surrounded by uniformed security personnel who appeared to be Cossacks.
The girls were whipped repeatedly with horsewhips and roughly handled, video footage showed. At one point Tolokonnikova was thrown to the ground and her coat thrown on top of her.
Cossacks, clad in their national clothes, are often seen helping the police with their work in the south of Russia in line with a tradition dating back to Tsarist times.
Tolokonnikova herself wrote on her Twitter feed @tolokno that they had been attempting to stage a new performance entitled “Putin will teach you to love the motherland.”
Alyokhina posted pictures on her Twitter feed of her chest showing severe bruising after the clashes.
“My back hurts from the beatings on my body there are bruises and marks from the whips,” Tolokonnikova said.
“Putin will teach you to love the motherland,” she added ironically.
The women went to Sochi hospitals for medical treatment and Alyokhina later posted a picture of Tolokonnikova in the hospital bed next to her.
Tolokonnikova said her husband Pyotr Verzilov has suffered in particular due to the use of an unidentified spray.
The governor of the Krasnodar region which includes Sochi, Alexander Tkachev, said the incident had to be investigated even if the views of Pussy Riot do not reflect the majority.
“All the guily in what took place should be punished,” he said.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sent to penal colonies on a two-year hooliganism sentence for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral in 2012.
However, they were freed early on amnesty in December last year.
The IOC distanced itself from the controversy over the arrest on Tuesday, which rights groups described as a public relations disaster that cast a new shadow over the Games.
“I understand that it (the arrest) was not in the context of a protest against the Games,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
Asked whether Pussy Riot would be able to stage a protest inside the Olympic Park where the main venues are located, Adams replied: “If they did it would be wholly inappropriate.”