Russian Envoy ‘Disappointed’ Power Hasn’t Joined Pussy Riot’s Band

Photograph by Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Maria Alyokhina, left, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot appear at a news conference on Feb. 4, 2014 in New York.

Updated at 9 pm EST

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power met with two recently liberated members of the all-female Russian punk band Pussy Riot today in New York.

The two were imprisoned for hooliganism in a protest against President Vladimir Putin and were released many months later in December under amnesty from the Russian leader.

When asked for a response to Power’s meeting with the Pussy Riot members, Power’s Russian counterpart at the UN feigned surprise and disappointment.

“She has not joined the band?” Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin asked reporters. “I would expect her to invite them to perform at the National Cathedral in Washington. This is my expectation.”

He added that the U.S. could perhaps “arrange a world tour for them — St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, maybe in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, ending up with a gala concert at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.”

“So if Ambassador Power fell short, I would be disappointed,” he said with a smile.

Power’s response: Let’s go:

And the U.S. ambassador has the perfect venue for the appearance that her Russian counterpart has facetiously suggested:

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova arrived in the U.S. yesterday to appear at a concert organized by Amnesty International. They are on their first overseas trip since walking free on Dec. 23.

Five Pussy Riot performers wearing colorful balaclavas sang a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012, calling on the Virgin Mary to “expel” Putin. A Moscow court jailed Tolokonnikova, Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich for inciting religious hatred and hooliganism in August 2012. Samutsevich was released on a suspended sentence, while the other two weren’t identified and remain at large.

The pardon came after Russia’s top court ordered a review of a two-year prison sentence for Tolokonnikova and Alekhina, ruling they should have been entitled to defer their sentences because of their young children.

If the Russian envoy was making light of the meeting, Kurtis Cooper, deputy spokesman of the U.S. Mission to the UN, said in an e-mail that Power met with the two “to discuss the disturbing trend in the Russian Federation of legislation, prosecutions, and government actions aimed at suppressing dissent and pressuring groups that advocate for fundamental human rights and basic government accountability.

The two spoke of their experiences in 22 months in prison and pointed to yet more political imprisonment in Russia.  “Ambassador Power thanked them for their advocacy, particularly on behalf of those in prison whose voices cannot be heard and their extraordinary  bravery,”’Cooper said, “and pledged the United States’ commitment to continue to advocate strongly on behalf of human rights and freedom of assembly and speech.”

 

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