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Pussy Riot: NYC mayor greets Russian feminist punk rock protesters to City Hall

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Ex members of Pussy Riot – the controversial Russian remonstration band – were welcomed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday to City Hall. According to the report today from The Associated Press, De Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray visited with two of the former members, recently released from prison, and commended them for “their bravery and courage.”

The feminist punk rockers known as the 11-member band "Pussy Riot," based in Moscow, are known for staging “unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations,” says their Wikipedia page. Pussy Riot’s themes include feminism and gay rights, and they are openly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they regard as a dictator.

Former members Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are in New York this week, as part of a world tour after their release from Russian prisons, where the pair spent almost the last two years of their lives.

In Oct. of 2012, five members of the Pussy Riot collective, including Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, staged a flash mob “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The disturbing political protest caught the eye of the Russian government, which moved to aggressively to silence it. The women were arrested on charges of “premeditated hooliganism,” tried and sent to separate penal colonies.

“We sang a fun song in a church,” is how Alekhina described the crime that put her and her band-mate in jail.

The activists are now visiting New York, as part of their anti-Putin world tour – no doubt timed to coincide as Putin’s Russia takes center stage in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The pair has already made stops in Asia and Europe.

On Wednesday, the activists appeared at Amnesty International’s benefit concert at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, not to perform but to decry Putin as a human rights violator.

“For Putin, the Olympic Games are an attempt to inflate the inflatable duck of a national idea, as he sees it,” Tolokonnikova said. “In Russia today, there are no real politics, no real discussion of views, and meanwhile the government tries to substitute for this with hollow forms of a national idea – with the Church, with sports, and the Olympics.”

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