How an Activist Singer Escaped Putin’s Russia

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Curated by James Angelos

The leader of the punk band Pussy Riot fled Russia dressed as a food courier. What does this say about life in Russia under Putin?

  • The Russian punk band Pussy Riot first became famous in 2012 when its members used a major Moscow cathedral near the Kremlin to stage a protest against Vladimir Putin.
  • Since then, the band’s leader, Maria Alyokhina, has been jailed several times for her outspoken criticism of Putin and his regime.
  • But following the invasion of Ukraine, life for Alyokhina—as for many other activists and critics of the Kremlin—became even more dangerous.
  • When Alyokhina recently learned she’d have to spend three-weeks in a penal colony as part of a previous conviction, she decided it was time to escape Russia. She did so, disguised as a food courier.
  • She’s among the many Russians who have fled to the country to avoid persecution for criticizing Putin and his war. Those who dare to do so are labeled “traitors” and “scum.”
  • Public dissent in Russia now comes with a virtual guarantee of jail time. Still, some venture to do so, and they are suffering heavy consequences as the Kremlin regresses to Soviet-style repression.
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