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Pussy Riot leader makes daring escape from Russia disguised as food courier

Maggie Baska May 11, 2022
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Pussy Riot leader Maria Alyokhina stands in front of a microphone with a red light and background

Pussy Riot leader Maria Alyokhina said she dressed as a food courier to avoid being detected by police as she escaped house arrest in Russia. (Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty)

Pussy Riot band leader Maria Alyokhina has escaped house arrest in Russia by disguising herself as a food courier to avoid Moscow police. 

Alyokhina and her bandmates in the feminist collective Pussy Riot have been arrested and imprisoned multiple times in the past for publicly protesting Vladimir Putin’s rule. 

In 2020, several members were arrested after decorating Russian government buildings with Pride flags for Putin’s birthday. Alyokhina was detained by Russian authorities for 48 hours last year after she attended protests criticising Putin’s rule and encouraging others to protest on social media. 

A story in the New York Times revealed that, amid the continued Russian invasion of Ukraine, Alyokhina was put under house arrest by Russian authorities in April.

But when authorities decided to change her arrest into a 21-day sentence in a penal colony, the activist staged a daring escape from the country. 

Alyokhina disguised herself as a food courier to elude the police, who were watching the friend’s apartment where she’d been staying, and she left her cellphone behind so authorities wouldn’t be able to track her movements. 

A friend then drove the Pussy Riot member to the Russian border with Belarus, and she managed to cross into Lithuania a week later.

Alyokhina told the New York Times that her escape “sounds like a spy novel”, adding that a “lot of magic happened last week” to ensure her safe arrival. 

“I still don’t understand completely what I’ve done,” she said, adding that she was “happy that I made it” because her journey was so “unpredictable”. 

“I don’t think Russia has a right to exist anymore,” she added. “Even before, there were questions about how it is united, by what values it is united, and where it is going. But now I don’t think that is a question anymore.”

When Alyokhina arrived at the Belarus-Lithuania border, she found that she had been placed on a Russian “wanted” list, and was refused entry on account of her Russian passport having been confiscated by authorities.

Alyokhina said she was eventually let through on her third try as she had friends outside the country helping her, including Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson.

Kjartansson convinced an unidentified European country to issue the Pussy Riot star with a travel document that gave her the freedom of movement status as an EU citizen, the New York Times reported. 

The document was snuck into Belarus for Alyokhina to use, and she was able to board a bus to Lithuania with the document in hand.

Alyokhina noted that she was treated better by the Belarusan border guards when they thought she was “European” instead of Russian. 

The New York Times said new members of Pussy Riot were arriving in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, every day as they fled Russia and tried to join the others for the group’s European tour. 

Alyokhina told the outlet that she still hoped to return to Russia one day, but didn’t know when that would be as activists are being imprisoned or forced into exile for protesting against the Russian government. 

“They are scared because they cannot control us,” Alyokhina said.

 

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