Pussy Riot was arrested in Sochi today.
Yes, you read that right. Pussy Riot members and internationally known “prisoners of conscience” Nadia Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, who were released from prison less than two months ago, were just arrested in Sochi.
Tolokonnikova claims they were just strolling through town (with a group of activists and journalists), the police claim there was a theft at the hotel where they were staying.
Pussy Riot had come down to Sochi to do a performance piece called “Putin Will Teach You How to Love the Motherland.” “The police didn’t know how to neutralize them, so they made up a theft in the hotel,” a local lawyer told me as he drove to the station to which the Pussy Rioters were being driven.
But Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are not your average hotel thieves. After their August 2012 show trial, these girls are media experts, live tweeting their arrest.
Маша Алехина, я и еще одна участница Pussy Riot едем в отдел полиции Блиново за нахождение в Сочи. pic.twitter.com/bj8qpX7gMN— Надя Толокно (@tolokno) February 18, 2014
(“Masha Alyokhina, another member of Pussy Riot and I are being taken to the Blinovo [police] station for being in Sochi.”)
Такой олимпийский Сочи. Едем в АДЛЕРОВСКОЕ ОТДЕЛЕНИЕ. pic.twitter.com/PoafsAGTZO— Надя Толокно (@tolokno) February 18, 2014
(“This is Olympic Sochi. Going to the ADLER STATION.”)
При задержании применяли силу.— Надя Толокно (@tolokno) February 18, 2014
(“They used force while arresting us.”)
Pyotr Verzilov, Nadia’s husband and the group’s informal manager, tweeted out their local lawyer’s number. Then he tweeted out the address of the police precinct to which the Pussy Rioters were being taken, adding, “See you at the station, journalist friends!”
Nadia tweeted out her cell phone number and even picked up the phone and talked, allowing this reporter to hear Alyokhina yelling at someone in the background.
Something tells me that heads are going to get bopped at the local police station. The local cops probably got the tip that Pussy Riot was in town and were told to make the problem go away. Panicking about messing up Putin’s Sochi party, they made the situation far worse, given the group’s brand recognition in the West and the number of foreign journalists swarming the place and bored of covering ski jumps.
What’s arguably even stupider is that they did the thing the Russian state is great at doing: they remade heroes out of Pussy Riot, just as Nadia and Masha were busy mucking up their own image, going on junkets to authoritarian countries and shamelessly asking for money around the world.
“How stupid do you have to be to arrest Pussy Riot in Sochi during the Olympics?” opposition leader Alexei Navalny tweeted. “There is no Ketchum in the world that can help you on this one.”
New Republic Senior Editor Julia Ioffe will be writing dispatches from Russia for the duration of the Olympics. For the entire collection of her pieces, click here.