In Depth

Pussy Riot activist defies travel ban to flee Russia for the Edinburgh Fringe

Band member drove 1,000 km to flee the country despite being banned from leaving

Pussy Riot band member Maria Alyokhina has managed to leave Russia just a day after being told she was banned from exiting the country.

Alyokhina was originally stopped from leaving the country as she attempted to make her way to the UK to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Border guards told her that “she had refused to serve a community service sentence for a separate protest held against Russia’s powerful Federal Security Service,” according to The Guardian.

The community service sentence followed her arrest outside the headquarters of Russia’s security agency, the FSB while “taking part in a protest against the ban on messenger service Telegram,” adds the paper. As a result, she was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, and apparently ignored the sentencing, prompting a fine of 400,000 rubles (£4,700), according to The Independent.

But after being told she could not leave the country, she made her way out anyway.

“It was nothing extraordinary,” she told the paper. “It was like many Russians leave [the country], legally.”

Alyokhina is scheduled to take part in a series of shows in the Edinburgh Fringe festival based on her book, Riot Days. 

This is not the first time she has been in trouble in her home country - the band member was jailed for two years in Russia over a protest in 2012 at Christ the Saviour Church in central Moscow. The sentencing garnered international attention, with musicians all over the world calling for her release.

After she was released, she became one of the country’s most recognised activists for prisoner’s rights, donating money to various causes, including organisations she helped set up that sheds light on criminal trials and the penitentiary system in Russia.

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