Jul 16
News
Four Pussy Riot members charged with “violating spectators’ rights” after storming field during 2018 World Cup final.

Four members of the Russian punk art collective Pussy Riot have been charged with “violating spectators’ rights” and illegally donning police uniforms when they stormed the field during Sunday’s World Cup final match in Moscow. The two infractions carry maximum fines of 10,000 and 1,500 roubles ($161 and $24), respectively.

The incident occurred in the 52nd minute of the game, with France leading Croatia 2–1, as Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović watched from the stands. The entire episode lasted less than a minute, before security agents carried the protesters away; shortly thereafter, Pussy Riot posted a statement on social media claiming responsibility for the stunt, and explaining the significance of the performance, which they titled “Policeman enters the Game” in homage to the late Russian dissident artist and poet Dmitri Prigov.

“Prigov created an image of a policeman, a carrier of the heavenly nationhood, in the Russian culture,” the statement reads. “The heavenly policeman is the organizer of this World Cup’s beautiful carnival, the earthy policeman is afraid of the celebration. The heavenly policeman carefully watches for obeying the game rules, the earthly policeman enters the game not caring about the rules.”

Despite the swift response of security agents at Luzhniki Stadium, one of the four protestors managed to share a double high-five with French striker Kylian Mbappé, while another earned the ire of Croatian defender Dejan Lovren. The protesters, three women and one man, have been identified as Nika Nikulshina, Olga Kurachyova, Olga Pakhtusova, and Pyotr Verzilov. The latter, according to the BBC, is the husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the three Pussy Riot members jailed in 2012 for their iconic anti-Putin performance at Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral, “Punk Prayer — Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!”

Pussy Riot’s statement regarding its World Cup performance protest ends with a list of demands seemingly addressed to Russian officials, including “Stop illegal arrests on rallies,” “Allow political competition in the country,” and “Not fabricate criminal accusations and not keep people in jails for no reason.” In the lead-up to this year’s presidential election—in which Putin received 77 percent of the vote—the Russian government intensified crackdowns on political opposition, protests, and other independent voices. On Monday morning, Pussy Riot posted an update about the situation of its four members, and initially claimed they are were being detained and were not allowed to speak with their lawyers. A lawyer was allowed in later Monday, according to another update, and a trial has begun in Moscow’s Khamovnichesky Court.