Russia: First interview with released Pussy Riot member
Index on Censorship had the exclusive opportunity to interview Pussy Riot member Ekatrina Samutsevich who was freed by a Moscow court on 10 October 2012. The interview took place during the same week as Samutsevich’s friends and fellow band mates Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were sent to prison camps in remote Russian regions.
Samutsevich said nobody expected her sentence to change, but when they were informed about her release on probation, her two friends congratulated her and hugged her: “This is a victory for all of us… one person out of three is released, or at least on a suspended sentence.”
During their time in prison the three band members could write letters to each other almost every day, but after Alekhina and Tolokonnikova’s departures to the prison camps, it has become hard for them to communicate.
Exhausted during the trial Samutsevich has filed an appeal to European Court of Human Rights saying her prosecution and detention violated Article 10 of the European Convention (free expression) and Article 3 (prohibition of torture).
She says that the case was rushed and that the Pussy Riot members were exhausted during the trial: “From our perspective, the rush was deliberate so that we were too tired to understand what was going on during the proceedings. I was so exhausted, once we had to call the ambulance. It was torture for us.”
“We consider ourselves innocent and the very fact of our detention illegal”, she said to Index on Censorship:
“The court obviously wanted us exhausted. We were woken up every day at 6 am and taken to the court at about 9 am, no matter what time the proceedings started.”
Sometimes the accused had to wait several hours under convoy before entering the courtroom. After the proceedings they spent several hours waiting for a car or waiting in front of the prison gates. For two weeks they entered their cell round 1 am and had to get up at 6 am.
“The internet is our rescue” Samusevich said that the Russian citizens don’t see themselves as part of policy making, because they simply don’t know they have the right and means to become part of the process:
“The lack in education leads to the lack of civil protest culture. As a result they play by the rules dictated by authorities.” She sees the only solution in education and self-education, something that is more accessible today thanks to the internet: “The internet is indeed our rescue – as a source of education.”
“The second most important thing is a will to unite, like the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists or ecologists recently did. It is important not to count on one leader who will save everyone. There won’t be one, and there shouldn’t be. Pussy Riot is against leaders, we stand for more complex structures of civil communities.”
No regrets Other Pussy Riot members who are now in hiding has told Index on Censorship that if they could turn back time they would still do the punk prayer once again.
“Of course, we would repeat our prayer: we can’t stay silent…”, Samusevich said. “But we would definitely sing the song to the end, the guards didn’t let us that time. I personally would prefer to stay in the cathedral for all the song’s duration, not just 15 seconds.”
When asked about the perfect future for Russia, a future where Pussy Riot is no longer needed, Samutsevich told that she thinks that this will happen years from now because at the moment, the government is only intensifying repressions:
“The current power should change the model of its behaviour. People should form a strong and active civil society, which will influence and dominate the authorities – the opposite of what we have now… So we will continue fighting.”