About three hours after Nadezhda Tolokonnikov said she and bandmate Maria Alyokhina were arrested in Sochi, the duo along with three others with whom they were arrested were released from police custody, donning their balaclavas and chanting an anti-Putin song as they walked out of the station.
The group had come to perform another protest, but were detained by Sochi police on suspicion of an alleged theft at the hotel they were staying in. As USA Today reports, the arrest appeared to be a preemptive action against a potential protest according to one of the five released:
"It is clear that in Russia activists are treated like terorrists," said one of the five, who was wearing a pink balaclava. "Inside we were beaten because we didn't want to say anything without our lawyer. In Russia there's no law.
"We were stopped in our hotel, told that somebody had stolen some money, but they detained us for being activists. We did not protest, but they said we planned to."
In a series of messages on Twitter, Ms. Tolokonnikova said that the two women had been also been detained on Sunday and Monday. On Monday, she said they were held by the Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B. "On the 16th we were detained for seven hours," she wrote. "On the 17th, we spent 10 hours with the F.S.B. and today we are in a police wagon, accused of theft."
Ms. Tolokonnikova wrote that they had come to Sochi intending to carry out a protest. "We are in Sochi to hold a Pussy Riot action," she wrote. "The song is called, 'Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland." However, she said they had not yet carried out any protest and were merely walking in Sochi when they were stopped by the authorities on Tuesday.
While progress on the theft case itself is not known, the move could indicate the Russian government may be stepping up its actions against protesters and other dissidents:
On her Twitter page, Tolokonnikova wrote that she and Alyokhina were surrounded by a crowd of agents from Russia's counter-extremism police while walking near the sea port building in Sochi, home to a club house for Russia's athletes and Olympic organizers. They had come to the Olympic city to stage another protest against the rule of President Vladimir Putin, Tolokonnikova wrote. "We are in Sochi with the aim of holding another Pussy Riot action. Our song is called 'Putin will teach you how to love the motherland'."
The arrest was the latest indication of a possible post-Olympic crackdown in Russia that seems to have begun even before the closing ceremony of the Games. On Monday, Russian authorities forbade the country's leading opposition activist Alexei Navalny from visiting Sochi during the Olympics. Later that night, the Kremlin's leading television channel, Rossiya, which is the official Olympic broadcaster in Russia, aired an hour-long propaganda film accusing opposition figures and activists of being traitors on the payroll of the United States, which the film compares to Nazi Germany.
Tolokonnikova posted this photograph to her Twitter page, reportedly taken while they were in custody:
This incident comes on the heels of the arrest of transgender television personality and former Italian Member of Parliamant, Vladimir Luxuria, who was detained on Sunday for carrying a sign that read "Gay is OK."
Image via Getty Images.