Masked members of Pussy Riot leave a police station in Adler during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, yesterday.
SOCHI, Russia: Russian police yesterday detained the two most famous Pussy Riot members in Sochi, host of the Winter Olympics, questioning the pair for several hours in a theft case.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who were only released from penal colonies under an amnesty late last year, were arrested along with several others in the morning and then set free after four hours in police custody.
Kremlin critics slammed the arrests as a public relations disaster for the Winter Games, which still have just under a week to run in the Russian Black Sea resort.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina walked out of the police station with their faces concealed by the colourful balaclavas that have been their trademark since their first performances in 2011.
They got into a waiting taxi and were driven away, an AFP correspondent said. Police said they were arrested along with several others over accusations of theft from the hotel where they had been staying. They were picked up in central Sochi, some 30 kilometres north of the main Olympic venues.
The pair had already been in Sochi for some two days on a visit aimed at recording a new performance opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has spearheaded the Sochi Olympics project from the start.
“They are trying to detain us so that we don’t walk around Sochi. We want to say the truth about what is happening in Sochi,” Tolokonnikova told AFP from the police station after being detained.
She accused the police of using force against them and said they would make a complaint.
“They used rough physical force against us. They beat us. The fact that they used force is awful... We have bruises and scratches.”