Pussy Riot World Cup protesters get 15-day jail term, 3-year ban from sporting events

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

(MOSCOW) — Four members of the anti-Vladimir Putin, anti-Donald Trump group Pussy Riot were sentenced to 15 days in jail for participating in a dramatic on-field protest during the World Cup final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday.

Veronika Nikulshina, Olga Kuracheva, Olga Pakhtusova and Petya Verzilov also have been banned from attending sporting events for three years, according the group’s representative, who confirmed the sentences to ABC News on Monday. The group also shared information about each of their member’s sentences in a series of tweets.

The Russian punk rock band and arts collective claimed responsibility for the on-field protest during the World Cup 2018 final between France and Croatia.

The four members ran onto the field early in the second half dressed as policemen, calling for the release of political prisoners in front of millions tuned in to the final match — including Putin.

According to a statement obtained by ABC News from Russian police, the Pussy Riot protesters who stormed the field were charged with administrative offenses — violating the rules of conduct for spectators during the holding of official sporting events and also wearing a police uniform without authorization.

In a post published on the group’s official Facebook page, the members claimed responsibility for the protest, explained the significance behind the police imagery and included a list of demands.

“Today is 11 years since the death of the great Russian poet, Dmitriy Prigov. Prigov created an image of a policeman, a carrier of the heavenly nationhood, in the russian culture,” the group wrote. “…The heavenly policeman rises as an example of the nationhood, the earthly policeman hurts everyone…The FIFA World Cup has reminded us of the possibilities of the heavenly policeman in the Great Russia of the future, but the earthly policeman, entering the ruleless game breaks our world apart.”

In their Facebook post on Sunday, the groups demands included letting “all political prisoners free,” “all political competition in the country,” and to “stop illegal arrests on rallies.”

Pussy Riot has been fiercely critical of Putin’s government. The group was launched into the international spotlight in 2012 when three of its original members were charged with hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison for performing the anti-Putin protest song “Punk Prayer” at a Moscow cathedral.

Yekaterina Samutsevich’s sentence was suspended on appeal, but Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina remained in prison until December 2013.

After their release, the activists founded an independent media outlet that advocates for political prisoners and have continued to speak out against Putin and other leaders, including Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“We’ve seen the authoritarian tendencies is parading all around the world as sexually transmitted diseases, and we think it’s time to make connection,” Tolokonnikova told CNN in August 2017. “It’s time to create global people’s movement if we want to find an alternative to this raid of populism, which we’ve seen in my own country, Russia and in America too, Donald Trump, and in the UK, which ended up in Brexit.”

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