Pussy Riot members are released in Sochi

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Media captionOne of the Pussy Riot band members, wearing a ski mask told reporters that Sochi was a "political event"

Two members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot who were arrested on Monday near the Winter Olympics resort of Sochi have been released.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were being held on suspicion of theft.

The pair were convicted of hooliganism over a protest song against President Putin in Moscow's largest cathedral.

They staged the protest along with other band members and were only released from jail in December.

The act was seen as blasphemous by many Russians, and was condemned by the Orthodox Church.

'No space for protest'

The two band members and three other women emerged from the police station in Sochi wearing their trademark ski masks after their brief detention.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Maria Alyokhina posted a photograph of herself in the back of a police van in Sochi
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Members of Pussy Riot including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (front left) and Maria Alyokhina (front right) performed in Sochi earlier on Tuesday

The group of women then ran down the street outside the police station singing "Putin will teach you to live the motherland" - a new song which correspondents say sarcastically lampoons the president's leadership.

"Now there is an occupation of this territory, because the city is under total police and security control," Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told reporters.

"We have arrived here on Sunday [and] we are being detained all the time. Even when we were driving our car and walking in the street. So they are looking for any reasons to arrest us."

Ms Tolokonnikova said they were detained for 10 hours by police on Monday after arriving "to make a political claim about the Sochi Olympics".

"There is no space for political protest here," she said. "If you want to say something critical you will be detained."

Ms Alyokhina said that the pair were going to release a new song and prepare a video "on the basis of what has happened to us during this day-and-a-half".

Earlier this month, six members of Pussy Riot signed an open letter insisting that Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova should no longer be described as members of the punk rock collective.

The remaining members of the group said the pair had forgotten about the "aspirations and ideals of our group" and were wrong to appear at an Amnesty International concert in New York.

In a separate development, the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday defended the removal of a transgender Italian gay rights activist from an Olympics arena, arguing that she was "escorted peacefully" from the premises and not detained.

Former Italian MP Vladimir Luxuria - dressed in rainbow colours - was taken away by four unidentified men in a car with Olympic markings as she tried to enter an arena Monday night for a women's hockey game.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Vladimir Luxuria is a prominent crusader for transgender rights

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