Pussy Riot appears at star-studded Amnesty concert in New York
By Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot took to a New York stage on Wednesday evening to demand the release of anti-government prisoners as Russia prepares to open the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
President Vladimir Putin has staked his reputation on the Sochi Games. But Russia has come under pressure by human rights activists in the months leading up to the games for its intolerance of political dissent and a law passed last year banning promotion of homosexuality among minors.
"We demand a Russia that is free and a Russia without Putin," said Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, after being introduced at Amnesty International's "Bringing Human Rights Home" concert by the pop star Madonna.
The case of Pussy Riot, in particular, has sparked a global outcry.
In 2012, Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after storming Moscow's biggest Orthodox cathedral and beseeching the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.
After nearly two years behind bars, Putin granted them amnesty in December.
Before speaking at the concert, the pair met with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to discuss "disturbing" trends in Russia, prompting a retort from Moscow's U.N. envoy.
At the concert, the pair sought to draw attention to the fate of eight Russian demonstrators who will be sentenced later this month after being charged with mass disorder at a 2012 protest against Putin. Continued...