Sochi: Pussy Riot Members Whipped by Cossack Militia (Video)

Pussy Riot in Sochi
Pussy Riot in Sochi
 AP Photo/Morry Gash

Cossack militia attacked the Pussy Riot punk group with whips and removed members' balaclavas in Sochi on Wednesday.

The group had gathered in a downtown Sochi restaurant, about 30 kilometers from where the Winter Olympics are being held. They ran out of the restaurant wearing brightly colored clothes and ski masks and were set upon by about a dozen Cossacks, who are used by police authorities to patrol the streets.

VIDEO: Pussy Riot on Pre-Olympics Prison Release: 'No PR Stunt Can Fix Russia's Image'

The incident lasted less than five minutes, and one Pussy Riot member, a man, was left with blood on his face, saying he was pushed to the ground. Police arrived and questioned witnesses. No one was arrested.

The group was about to perform under a banner advertising the Sochi Olympics when the attack occurred. "They were whipped and pepper sprayed," says Hunter Heaney of The Voice Project. "Their ski masks were removed and Peter [Verzilov], Nadya's husband, was taken to the hospital where his eyes are being checked for pepper spray damage."

Verzilov confirms that Cossacks violently pulled off Nadezhda "Nadya" Tolokonnikova's mask, knocked her down and attacked her with a horse whip as she lay on the ground. They also assaulted other members, smashing a guitar and throwing it in the trash.

The group has called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics and will release a statement later today.

Authorities in Krasnodar region, of which Sochi is part, promised to investigate the incident.

"Law enforcers have to thoroughly investigate the incident and punish those who are guilty," said Alexander Tkachev, governor of Krasnodar region, according to Russian TV station NTV. "The vast majority of the region's population doesn't share this band's views -- however, all the guilty parties should be punished."

According to the Twitter account of the art group Voina, associated with Pussy Riot, the musicians are preparing an official complaint against the attackers.

Meanwhile, a local student association in Sochi issued a statement saying that its members are going to accompany Pussy Riot members through the end of their stay in the city. "We want to extend a welcoming reception to all the guests," said the association's coordinator Ilya Krikunov, according to wire service Interfax. "Consider us to be Pussy Riot fans during the Olympics. We will accompany them everywhere, trying to show that there are a lot of interesting and beautiful things in the city, and there's no need for provocation."

STORY: Sochi: Pussy Riot Members Say They Were Arrested at Olympics

Earlier, the International Olympic Committee said it would be "wholly inappropriate" for the Russian punk group to protest at Sochi Olympic sites. International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said Wednesday that "venues are not the places to have demonstrations." Adams said the detention did not appear to be linked to the Olympics.

Two Pussy Riot members were detained by police Tuesday near the Sochi ferry terminal and later released. The two women have called for a boycott of the Sochi Games and gained worldwide attention for protesting the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The detention of the Pussy Riot members as well as a gay rights activist and environmental activists in recent days has brought political tensions to the fore at the Olympics.

The video is included below.

A version of this article first appeared on Billboard.com.

comments powered by Disqus