Russian punk band Pussy Riot go on hunger strike in Moscow

Russian punk band Pussy Riot

Two members of band famed for anti-authority 'guerrilla gigs' refuse food in protest at jail time

LAST UPDATED AT 15:23 ON Tue 6 Mar 2012

TWO MEMBERS of a Russian all-girl punk band, Pussy Riot, have started an immediate hunger strike following their arrest yesterday for a 'flash gig' in a Moscow church.

Police pressed charges of violation of public order and inciting religious hatred stemming from the incident at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral last month in which the band broke in and staged a five-minute performance of a 'punk prayer' titled Holy Shit from the altar.

Seven band members were picked up by police yesterday but only two were retained in custody - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhin. They are refusing food in protest against being held in jail away from their young children until their case comes to trial in April. If they are found guilty of the charges, they face a maximum of seven years in prison.

Pussy Riot, The Guardian reports, are notorious for staging "guerrilla performances highlighting Russia's authoritarianism and pushing for judicial, educational and cultural reform."

They are instantly recognisable in their uniform of coloured balaclavas, miniskirts and tights, but the seriousness of their message is perhaps often lost in the pranksterish tone of their press releases. "Our concerts become a pure protest saying: superheroes in balaclavas and acid bright tights seize public space in Moscow," they announced to Russian news blog Gazeta.ru last month.

According to the St Petersburg Times, the group cites American punk rock band Bikini Kill and the Riot Grrrl movement of 1990s as an inspiration. "What we have in common is impudence, politically loaded lyrics, the importance of feminist discourse and a non-standard female image," Pussy Riot said.

Although the group's performances have been classified by the police simply as 'unsanctioned rallies', Pussy Riot claim darker forces are at work: it is the counter-extremism 'Center E' (often described as 'Putin's political police') that harasses it most.

"Ordinary policemen are not as bothersome as Center E," the group states. "Center E taps our telephones, breaks into our email and tries its best to prevent our concerts." · 

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