Russian punk rockers leaving band behind to campaign for prison reform

Newly-freed Russian rockers Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina are leaving their punk band behind them to focus on their new prison reform campaign group. The Pussy Riot stars were set free on Monday (23Dec13) as part of a presidential amnesty after serving almost two years for hooliganism charges for staging a controversial church protest against Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
They immediately announced plans to continue their fight for prisoners’ rights after being subjected to what they described as brutal conditions behind bars, with Tolokonnikova embarking on a hunger strike to protest the alleged mistreatment of inmates and their reported use as “slave labour” by wardens. Alekhina also claimed to have been forced to undergo repeated and unnecessary gynaecological exams in an effort to break her spirit.
They held a press conference in Moscow on Friday (27Dec13) and revealed that they had no interest in capitalising on the Pussy Riot brand. Instead, they will campaign under the name of their new endeavour, the non-governmental human rights organisation Zona Prava (Justice Zone).
The two women said, “We are not Pussy Riot now… We can promote our cause without playing any shows. And we will never play any shows for money.”
Tolokonnikova and Alekhina’s other jailed bandmate, Yekaterina Samutsevich, who was released last year (12) after having her two-year sentence commuted, was not present for the media gathering, but her pals insisted she was welcome to join their fight.
Alekhina said, “If she wants to help us with what we’re doing now, we will only be glad.”