Pussy Riot urges U.S. to look past Olympic hype

AP, AFP-JIJI

Americans who will be at the Winter Olympics should look beyond the facilities created for the games and take a hard look at the host country, two members of the Russian protest punk band Pussy Riot said Tuesday.

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova made their first public appearance in the United States, arriving to take part in Amnesty International’s “Bringing Human Rights Home” concert Wednesday in Brooklyn. Madonna will introduce them.

The women were released in December after nearly two years in prison following a conviction for hooliganism when they staged a protest in a Russian church, wearing balaclavas and screaming lyrics.

They have been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and political conditions in their homeland, and blasted their release as an attempt to quiet criticism of human rights issues in Russia before the Sochi Games, which open Friday.

Alekhina, speaking Russian as Tolokonnikova’s husband translated into English, said Americans, including President Barack Obama, should look past the buildings erected for the games.

“These objects have no relation to Russia, they are foreign objects in Russia,” she said. “The only thing which connects these objects to the country is taxpayer money which has been stolen and which has been used to build these Olympic objects.”

Speaking through her husband, Tolokonnikova urged Obama not be afraid to publicly voice his thoughts about what he feel is happening in Russia now, during his next visit.

The women said their goal is to work toward bringing more transparency to Russian politics and the Russian prison system.

In Brooklyn on Wednesday, the two were to read a speech about human rights challenges in Russia.