The Pussy Riot begin a tour in Ukraine after their escape from Moscow

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BERLIN — Russian feminist arts collective and punk rock band Pussy Riot took to the stage with an anti-war message on Thursday, performing for the first time in three years after their lead singer escaped Russia by dressing up as food courier to escape the police.

Speaking in Berlin at the start of a 19-show European tour planned to raise money for war victims in Ukraine, Maria Alyokhina, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, called her decision to leave Russia a ” spontaneous”.

This happened after Russian authorities announced that she would have to serve a 21-day sentence in a penal colony. Alyokhina has been arrested six times in the past year on charges related to her political activism, with Putin expanding an already stifling crackdown on political dissent since his invasion of Ukraine.

More than 4,500 anti-war protesters were arrested in a single day in the march, according to a rights group. Meanwhile, even portraying war as war can be punishable by jail time.

“We want to tell the truth,” Alyokhina said. “Those Russians who know are already doing everything they can and are being imprisoned.”

Known for their provocative guerrilla performances, Pussy Riot gained notoriety in February 2012, with the performance of a ‘punk prayer’ critical of Putin at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Alyokhina and another member of the collective were sentenced to two years in prison.

Their new “anti-war” show, which combines music, theater and video, also incorporates the names of imprisoned and persecuted Russian dissidents.

To enable the tour, Alyokhina “went through various adventures,” the collective said on Instagram.

Alyokhina recounted those adventures to The New York Times earlier this week, describing how she donned a food delivery uniform to fool the police guarding the apartment she was staying in and left her cell phone behind to avoid being caught. followed. She then took a circuitous route out of the country via Belarus and Lithuania.

His girlfriend, Lucy Shtein, revealed a similar escape. “Easy way to pass the cops in your driveway,” she posted on Instagram, alongside a photo of herself in a green food delivery outfit.

Thousands of liberal Russians fled Putin’s wartime crackdown.

Olga Borisova, another member of the collective who performed on Thursday, said she left the country when war broke out. Diana Burkot said she packed up two months ago, but everyone in the band wanted to come back.

When asked what message the band wanted to send Putin during their concert, Burkot replied that they didn’t want to send him a message at all. According to them, engaging with him is no longer possible.

Borisova said they hoped he would be tried as a war criminal.

Addressing the West, the three interpreters stressed that it was dangerous to remain silent in the face of the actions of the Russian leader. “Evil is indifferent,” Aloykhina said.

Borisova said she believed that after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, no one would talk to Putin. Especially since it was a violation of international law and “super brutal”.

Instead, they were shocked at how limited international reaction was in 2014 and how quickly everyone returned to normal. “Of course, if he sees he can do it and there’s no reaction, why not just go further and annex more and more territory, to start a war?” said Borisova.

“It’s become so absurd,” Aloykhina said of the Russian government’s efforts to promote its invasion of Ukraine as a “special operation” and prevent citizens from understanding it as a war. She noted that someone who buys ads on Instagram could in theory end up in prison for up to five years for “sponsoring extremists”.

Russia blocked Instagram and Facebook in March after Facebook temporarily suspended its hate speech rules and allowed posts calling for Putin’s death. Subsequently, a court banned parent company Meta as an extremist organization.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the concert, Alyokhina was reluctant to dwell on how she evaded Russian authorities to leave the country.

“I think the focus should be on Ukraine now and not on me,” she said, calling on countries to stop selling arms to Russia and buying its oil.

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