State-Run Russian TV Station Airs Controversial Documentary about Pussy Riot

The film makes allegations about a connection between the band and exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

MOSCOW – On Sept. 11, the Russian state-run television channel Rossiya aired a documentary about Pussy Riot, containing allegations that the feminist punk band’s controversial performance was paid for by an exiled tycoon.

In the film, made by veteran reporter Arkady Mamontov, Pussy Riot members, three of which were sentenced to two years in prison last month for their “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, were portrayed as “blasphemers.”

The documentary also featured allegations that the “punk prayer,” during which Pussy Riot members were singing “Mother Mary, drive Putin away,” was masterminded and paid for by exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who is wanted by Russia’s law enforcers for alleged economic crimes and was granted asylum in Great Britain.

In a filmed interview, Aleksey Veshnyak, head of the obscure organization Preobrazheniye, said he believes Berezovsky is behind Pussy Riot’s cathedral gig, based on a meeting the two had in London a year before.

Berezovsky denied any connection between him and Pussy Riot. “Of course, I have nothing to do with Pussy Riot,” he was quoted as saying by the Russian FM radio station Ekho Moskvy. “Of course, I didn’t discuss any “Pussy Riot project” with [Veshnyak]. But if I had invented that as a project I would have been very proud. This is a very creative project.”

The documentary also attacked Western artists who expressed support for Pussy Riot, alleging that they were paid to do that. It contained an interview with American analyst William Dunkerley, who cited unnamed sources in the British show business as saying that some producers were offered up to 100,000 euros for statements in support of Pussy Riot.

Pussy Riot’s lawyers dismissed Mamontov’s allegations as “idiocy,” the wire service Interfax reported.

Meanwhile, even within the Russian Orthodox church, not everyone accepted Mamontov’s version of the Pussy Riot case. Archdeacon Andrei Kurayev sharply criticized the film in his blog. “I’m not for Pussy Riot,” he wrote. “But why lie?”