Europe

Pussy Riot activist held in Moscow over prisoner demo

Nadya Tolokonnikova posted a photo on Facebook of her apparently being taken away by police
Image caption Nadya Tolokonnikova posted a photo on Facebook of her apparently being taken away by police

A Pussy Riot activist and another protester have been arrested in Moscow after staging a brief street performance to support women prisoners.

Nadya Tolokonnikova, along with fellow activist Katya Nenasheva, dressed as prisoners and attempted to sew a Russian flag before being dragged away.

Both were released after three hours, Ms Nenasheva told the BBC.

Ms Tolokonnikova spent 21 months in jail after a Pussy Riot protest against Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

The human rights campaigner staged her new protest on Russia's national day.

While under arrest on Friday she posted messages on Facebook (in Russian) saying she wanted to draw attention to the struggles of female prisoners, both while incarcerated and once released.

Image caption The women said on Facebook that they had made a tricolour flag while being held in police detention

Russian media reports said the two women had been detained for holding an "unsanctioned rally" in Moscow's Bolotnaya Square - the site of mass anti-government protests that began in 2011.

"The police themselves did not say what we'd been detained for," Ms Nenasheva told the BBC.

"At first they talked about an administrative violation then they said they had detained us just to check our identity," she said in a written statement.

Since being released last year, Ms Tolokonnikova has focused on campaigning around the world against President Vladimir Putin.

She was jailed along with fellow Pussy Riot members, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, in August 2012 after being convicted of hooliganism.

They were among five members of the radical group to stage an obscenity-laced "punk prayer" in Moscow's biggest cathedral.

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

Ms Samutsevich was freed on probation in October 2012, but Ms Tolokonnikova and Ms Alyokhina remained in jail until their release in December 2013.

In February 2014, members of Pussy Riot signed an open letter insisting that Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova should no longer be described as part of the punk rock collective.

They 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.

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