The Washington Post

IOC distances itself from Pussy Riot beating

 


Members of the punk group Pussy Riot, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in the aqua balaclava and Maria Alekhina in the red balaclava perform next to the Olympic rings in Sochi on Wednesday. (David Goldman/ Associated Press)

SOCHI, Russia — The International Olympic Committee maintains that the beating endured by the punk band Pussy Riot in front of a set of Olympic rings at the hands of Russian security in Sochi was “unrelated” to the Winter Games and might as well have “happened in Vladivostock or St. Petersburg.” The performers, well-known for their opposition to President Vladimir Putin, were staging a small demonstration in front of the rings, singing a song entitled “Putin Will Teach You How to Love the Motherland,” when they were set upon by militia who used mace, choke-holds and whips against them.

“It happened in Sochi, but it was unrelated to an Olympic venue and was not, as far as I know, a demonstration against the Olympics,” spokesman Mark Adams said  at the IOC’s daily briefing Thursday.

The performers beg to differ: Band member Nadezhda Toloknnikova described the band’s performances in the city since they arrived on Sunday as a form or “boycott” against the Games and what they perceive to be the IOC’s collaboration with an authoritarian state.

“The Olympics has turned the police state into a total police state and the authoritarian regime into a totalitarian regime with preventative arrests,” she said, speaking at a news conference in Sochi on Thursday morning, according to the Associated Press. “The Olympics has created an environment of sweeping violations of human rights in Russia.”

Adams countered by criticizing the band for using the Sochi Games as a site for protest.

“People are well within their rights to demonstrate anywhere in the world about anything they want to, but what we would ask is that the Games themselves are not used as a platform for demonstration,” said Adams, who also added that the Games “are a great show of how different people from different backgrounds can live together in harmony and we want to try to preserve that.”

 

 

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Sally Jenkins is a sports columnist for The Washington Post.

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