Pussy Riot To Be Freed: Amnesty for Russian Punk Band, Greenpeace Protestors and Others

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are being freed under the amnesty bill being submitted by Vladimir Putin to the Duma, the Russian parliament, on Monday December 9, to mark the Russian constitution’s 20th anniversary on Thursday. Nadya’s husband Pyotr Verzilov confirmed the rumors to The Voice Project:

It’s from the Kremlin and official already, they will be freed. We do not know yet when this will happen, because it is unclear when the bill will be voted by the Duma and how fast it will be applied to prisons – could be from 2 weeks to 2 months until they are freed.

The Voice Project also reports that Nadya’s father Andrei has also been able to confirm this from “reliable sources.” Nadya was moved to Siberia in November after protesting conditions and going on a hunger strike at her previous penal colony in Morodovia. She is now hospitalized in a Siberian prison facility, Regional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1.

The BBC reports that Putin may also free the Greenpeace Arctic 30 campaigners currently on bail and facing trial on (reduced) charges of hooliganism, as well as some of the opposition activists involved in unrest in May 2012.

This all feels like a Putin move to make Russia seem less yucky-looking in the buildup to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Simone Baumann’s film Putin’s Game, documenting charges of threats, corruption, and environmental damage is screening throughout Europe. Pussy Riot jailed, Greenpeace activists facing trial, “gay propaganda” banned and LGBTQ beaten, Elton John (finally) speaking out about anti-gay discrimination in Russia. From the stage. While performing a concert in Moscow. Add in a boycott of Smirnoff vodka and Putin had to do something.

In a surprising move, NBC has named the New Yorker’s editor and a former Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post, David Remnick as a guest correspondent:

Remnick said NBC had guaranteed him editorial independence with his commentary, including such politically charged issues as gay rights and the relationship between Russia and Ukraine. “There is nothing in the world — and I know they don’t intend to hinder me in this way — where I would not be honest in my analysis,” Remnick said. “It would be a waste of everyone’s integrity and time if otherwise.”

Meanwhile, it could be a very happy new year for Pussy Riot, Greenpeace, and other jailed Russian activists. (more…)

Athletes Kiss on Medal Stand: Did Russian Gold Medalists Protest Anti-Gay Laws?

In recent weeks, Russian Authorities have repeatedly vowed to uphold their anti-gay laws that prohibit the mere expression of supporting gay rights– qualifying the act of doing so as propaganda, at the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Thus far, Putin’s rearing head has refused to blink in the face of international scrutiny.  While the games have yet to begin in earnest, the decision to do so is already proving to be a total shitshow with Russian athletes now being at the center of controversy.

Case in point: two female Russian athletes celebrated beating the Americans and the British at the 4x400m relay by making out with their gold medals in tow, causing the internet to in turn freak out.

Okay so they didn’t make out exactly, but Russian athletes Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova did in fact kiss on the medal stand at the IAAF track championship in Moscow to protest their country’s anti-gay laws.  As the video above indicates, their teammates joined in and all four girls shared an innocent kiss to commemorate their win.

A political act or an act of celebration?

It’s hard to say.  While headlines around the world are indicating that the act was political in nature, sources in the Russian camp insist that the girls were merely congratulating each other.

The stakes were further raised on Friday when Yelena Isinbayeva, Russian pole vaulter, called out critics suggesting it was “disrespectful” to refuse to abide by a country’s law when visiting that country.  She later walked back that statement and said that she’d been misunderstood going on to state;

“But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes, and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality (which is against the Olympic charter).”

Opponents of the law have since called on her to be removed as an ambassador to the Youth Olympics.

Isinbayeva’s initial statement was made in response to Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro’s rainbow-colored fingernails.

Unrelated but relevant, it seems worth acknowledging that the age-old logo of the Olympics consists of multicolored rings that interlock one another. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to confirm whether or not nail art is permissible that includes those colors (black, yellow, red and green) while avoiding more flamboyant colors like purple orange, pink and teal.

Regardless, a number of ice skaters from around the globe have vowed to protest Russia’s laws in less manicured ways. While some inside Russia claim that the law and the subsequent reaction have been overblown, and while the IOC doesn’t permit any demonstrations of “political, religious, or racial propaganda,” critics including gay U.S. congressman Mark Takano of California have a different take, pointing to the absurdity of the implication that one’s identity be interpreted as an act of propaganda.

American figure skater Johnny Weir doesn’t intend to put forth any outward displays beyond just showing up;

“As far as outward displays, should I be competing in the Olympics, my husband, his entire family, and my entire family will be there as a unit, supporting me — and I think that that is a beautiful statement to make,”

Indeed, the very presence of gay athletes under the threat of reprimand — and the heightened awareness around everything down to the fingernails of even straight athletes — will ensure that this shitshow rages on until, and most likely after, the games begin.


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