Follow Christiane on social media:

On Twitter + Facebook + Instagram Amanpour producers on Twitter

What time is Amanpour on CNN?

Check showtimes to see when Amanpour is on CNN where you are. Or watch online.

Check showtimes to see when Amanpour is on CNN where you are. Or watch online.

Pussy Riot tells Amanpour: ‘We are free people, and free people feel no fear’

February 6th, 2014
03:21 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Despite spending almost two years in a Russian penal colony, two members of the dissident Russian punk group “Pussy Riot” were confident and defiant as ever in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“We were never afraid from the beginning – neither before our imprisonment, nor during it, nor right now,” Masha Alyokhina said. “We have no reasons to be afraid. We are free people, and free people feel no fear.”

Pussy Riot: 'no reasons to be afraid'

As the Winter Olympics get underway in Sochi, Russia, Alyokhina and her fellow activist Nadya Tolokonnikova are two of the sharpest thorns in President Vladimir Putin’s side.

Like so many host countries before it, Russia has faced a barrage of criticism leading up to the Games – but with Russia it seems personal, and much of the venom is directed as Putin himself.

The West and many Russians are angry about his wholesale assault on human rights – the crackdown on political opponents and dissent, and the harsh treatment of gays.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were thrown in prison after they were convicted of “hooliganism” and inciting religious hatred for performing a riotous punk song in a Moscow Cathedral – and posting a video of the action online.

“It is a system of slavery,” Tolokonnikova said of the penal colony. “People turn into cogs, into a factory.”

“You have no choice where you will work. You are forced to sow. You have no choice in this matter.”

“Some penal colonies, for example the one I was in Mordovia, the work day can be as long as 16 or 20 hours. And the next colony to mine, the work day was 20 hours.”

“Prisoners are also forced to perform completely unpaid labor hauling sacks, which are very heavy, and trying to lift these harms the health of female prisoners. They have to haul bags of cement, they have to haul bags of sand.”

The pay for this work, she told Amanpour, was three or four dollars a month.

Pussy Riot: 'It is a system of slavery'

“The administration does everything to make prisoners feel squashed and silent because it is easier to control people this way,” she said.

Alyokhina told Amanpour that while she herself was not the victim of violence while in prison, the use of force was indeed rampant.

“Russian colonies see violence used to all prisoners constantly,” she said. “We see violence from the part of the administration, as well as prisoners who work for the administration. They beat people when requested to do so by the administration.”

The most shocking part of the penal system, she told Amanpour, was the “total lack” of adequate health care.

“If you, for example, are sick – say you have HIV – you have no support from outside. You will simply die in the colony most likely.”

The prison administration pays far too little, she said, for reasonable medical professionals to work in the system.

President Putin released the two activists just before Christmas, widely seen by observers as a public relations move ahead of the Sochi Olympics.

As Russians strive for more personal freedoms, Alyokhina said she is not concerned with the increasingly authoritarian president.

“We are not thinking about what Putin will be doing at all. We will be thinking about what we need to do,” she said.

“If we keep looking at Putin and his repressive measures we will have to just shut ourselves in a tiny room with our head under the covers and not utter another word until the end of our days, and we have no intention of doing that.”

Putin Riot: We're not thinking of Putin

The Russian government says that its population was shocked and outraged by Pussy Riot’s public actions, but Alyokhina dismissed that notion.

“You should not be listening to federal channels,” she said. “You should be listening to ordinary people, and ordinary people actually do support us.”

Tolokonnikova said that they will continue their push to help prisoners worldwide, and expose the malfeasance of prison administrators.

“If we didn’t believe in what we were doing, if we didn’t believe that we could bring change to our country, we wouldn’t have begun doing it.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Russia
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    Why do Americans love to sell their gay?

    February 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply
    • Kerry

      Americans, as all civilized people do, appose dehumanizing any group of people. We all have souls. Everyone wants to live in peace.

      February 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Reply
      • Michael

        comments like yours are the reason I prefer discussions on CNN than yahoo :)

        February 7, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
  2. David Welliver

    I read about Russian incarceration and seen programs. It is harsh and parts are unreasonable. However, US prisons are a fortune to operate because they're run like Holiday Inns. Needs to be something in the middle.

    February 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • Mark Borg

      But American prisons
      do have 25% ofthe world's prison population

      February 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Reply
      • Relictus

        True, and if they riot, you can bet that there's not enough guards for that many people.

        February 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
  3. Niclas

    I see their point and I do support them. However, I too would be angry if they behaved disrespectfully in a church I attend. Or say if it was a mosque, synagogue, or other place of worship. I wish they could combine their protests with respect for people's beliefs and traditions. For example, in Sweden we had bare breasted FEMEN members demonstrating in one of our oldest churches. They ended up upsetting a lot of people; they'd have gotten more support from people if the demonstration was outside the church rather than inside of it.

    February 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Reply
    • stoneworker

      If I may inquire what exactly do you support about them then?

      February 6, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • Nikolay

      I understand your concern and I agree that church is not a good place for such an action. However, I would like to explain that it was chosen based on a very hard restriction for public meetings and rallies in Russia. When it's very hard to get a permission to make a legal meeting and when there is a strict censorship on federal TV, the only way to speak and be heard is to do something outrageous. In their case they reached their goal but paid a high price for that.

      February 6, 2014 at 7:28 pm | Reply
      • stoneworker

        You are mistaken if you think they care about any issues. It was simply a PR stunt for their group. Also watch them on Colbert admit to causing trouble all the time. If you look at the video you can hardly hear the word Putin and more importantly nobody knew them anyway so nobody would watch. I do not agree with the punishment, but I do agree that they committed a crime.

        February 6, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
    • Krakalakin

      You missed the whole point of their performance, which was to protest the marriage of dictatorship and the church. Those in the past who sought political domination without the considerable political influence of religion have failed miserably. Putin is clever in that he seeks political alliance with religion, and the weight of the faithful at the polling booth. Their only slight against the church was the unholy marriage of that faith to a dictator, which is a completely valid grievance. You let your religious defense mechanism cloud your judgement......

      February 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Reply
      • stoneworker

        Imagine this its Christmas(new years whatever you choose to celebrate). You are sitting with your family enjoying your day. All of the sudden a bunch of people in masks run in and start screaming and playing loud music. Forget about dictators forget about all the mumbo jumbo you have heard and answer this is this normal behavior? Also just to state the facts probably one of the best known dictators in the world outlawed the orthodox church and ordered the killing of many priest....Joseph Stalin ring any bells? If anything you basically just said that Putin is not a dictator, because according to you he cares about how the believers will vote. I think something is definitely clouding your judgement.

        February 6, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
    • Daz

      Yeah no doubt they commited a crime, but the greater crime seems to be the freedoms of the Russian people decreasing every day. Im no expert on the matter, but it seems to be reverting there?

      February 6, 2014 at 11:16 pm | Reply
      • stoneworker

        I am no expert either, but I have a lot of Russian friends and I ask their opinion any time I can. From what I can piece together I am getting the sense that the situation is far far better than what the mass media would have you believe, but I am mostly acquainted with people in cities so I cannot say for certain about all of Russia. Also another interesting trend is that often someone in the Russian Duma will propose some "ridiculous" law and if there are a lot of posts against it in the Russian media someone higher up the food chain will shut it down.

        February 7, 2014 at 6:07 am |
    • David BT

      I understand you can be angry in such a situation... but 2 years in jail for "being disrespectful", as you put it, seems a bit harsh to me... =/

      February 7, 2014 at 12:00 am | Reply
      • stoneworker

        I completely agree with you here the punishment does not fit the crime, but a crime was committed and from their speech it seems to me that they did not learn their lesson. My hope is that its all just talk. I would like a reporter to ask them to publicly apologize to the people that they have offended with their "performance".

        February 7, 2014 at 6:01 am |
  4. winema

    Being from Russia, I do not know anybody of my friends who would support them. How can you support the people who came to the church in masks, interrupt the church service with some crazy punk song, and run away. How would you feel if someone did it in your church?

    February 6, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Reply
    • Nikolay

      I'm from Russia too and I can say – when censorship blocks you from being heard and laws disallow you to speak freely on a meeting, such action becomes the only available way left.

      February 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Reply
      • stoneworker

        Where does censorship block you? Go on lenta dot ru or gazeta dot ru and you will see many people voicing their opinion. Often against the government. Go on the street say anything you want nobody will stop you, but keep in mind public order and the fact that people want to also simply go about their day so choose carefully what and where you say it.

        February 6, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
    • Igor

      Also being from Russia, St.Petersburg... I, for one, do not have a single acquaintance who condemn them; quite the opposite, the ladies are admired for their courage. And something else, by the way: immediately after their arrest, during and after their trial, there had emerged, and lasted till now, a good tradition: a lot of people passing a Russian Orthodox church spit in its direction. So do I.

      February 7, 2014 at 7:24 am | Reply
      • stoneworker

        A man from St.Petersburg writing on CNN. I think you have some pretty interesting acquaintances. I have never heard of anybody spitting towards a church in fact usually when people pass a church in Russia they cross themselves( if they are believers). Also there is an old Russian saying you might be aware of don't spit against the wind.

        February 7, 2014 at 7:42 am |
  5. Sanjay

    They are beautiful. In America they would have been used by the prison guards, the warden and everyone else. Work is not the worst thing, having to satisfy guards, stripped search by male guards, etc that is America. After being used like that what is left of you. Sill these women have self-respect and can speak against injustices they perceive, and look very attractive.

    February 6, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Reply
    • Bree

      Have you been in an American prison? Where in the world did you get these ideas from?!

      February 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  6. Krakalakin

    Had these two not been on the radar of the international media, they would likely not be alive, definitely not free, and would have suffered inhumanities too grotesque to discuss. They would do well to temper their words, as dictators brook no opposition, as they are already aware. Putin's dictatorship is assured for the next 15 years, they are either incredibly brave, or incredibly stupid.

    February 6, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Reply
    • stoneworker

      Or may be they wouldn't disrupt church services to begin with?

      February 6, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Reply
      • martin jude

        Jesus Christ was the first person to protest in a religious place. If you remember what He did to Wall Street's predecessors, you will know that He also got noticed and He also paid the price in the end. No offense, but what did these kids do that was so wrong? Also, they protested while prayers were not going on.

        February 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm |
      • stoneworker

        This has nothing to do with jesus christ. This is about public order. This is not the first time they have disrupted it. Also the "song" they sang is really offensive to church goers. This is also not about freedom of speech, because they could have made their video at home or in a studio(even add a similar background to the church) then publish it on the web. I understand that the US really does not have fancy grandiose churches with long histories so its hard to understand. These churches serve more as a monument/museum. So my best analogy for the church would be the National Gallery of Art in DC or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. You do not want people publicly urinating in these places even as a form of protest.

        February 7, 2014 at 6:29 am |
  7. Jim

    The prison system in Russia is still based on the GULAG system, so gross human rights abuses are to be expected. The GULAG, where the guilty ruled the innocent, was the main driving force of Soviet industrialism and had nothing to do with guilt or innocence. The people were sent their to work as slave labor to fulfill Stalin's ambition, not to pay penance for a crime they had actually committed, although a fraction of the GULAG inmates were actual career criminals. So what you have today in Russia is a shadow of that horrible system. The prisoners are still seen as slave labor and their guilt or innocence is irrelevant.

    Plaudits to these two women for embarking to change this situation.

    February 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  8. martin jude

    They got away rather cheaply. Imagine spending 20 hours a day listening to Liza Minelli, Celine Dion, and the like..?/? I would rather haul whatever load they gave me.

    February 6, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  9. Reader

    Why so much noisy PR about this two headless punk-girls?

    February 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  10. Peter

    Dresen ! You do not understand and do not see the whole picture of what is happening with this group. They not only violated the public order , but they could offend many people, the elderly and women . The church is not the place for such actions. Imagine how you would behave if your moms would have to look at it when they came to pray . These girls get up taoke that no one person 's head would not come ... They just wanted to attract attention . and once attracted him to her – began to shout and cry for help . They did not even think to resist and fight for human rights ... Only when they were prompted for Reshotka them what to say and what to do . We do not want these girls . in our country there is no place for such a vulgar , arrogant and corrupt people who are humbling themselves and all Russians.

    February 7, 2014 at 2:42 am | Reply
  11. Andrey

    real face

    http://vk.com/club2894536?z=photo-2894536_112826500%2Falbum-2894536_26059876%2Frev

    February 7, 2014 at 5:03 am | Reply
  12. Serjey

    All wars have such ugly faces – yeah unregardingly to the places and monuments. The most funny thing is when lie became a profittable business they started to use heavy make ups as if it could make them first rank in the miss universe show.

    February 7, 2014 at 7:15 am | Reply
  13. Liz Brown

    Putin drinks too much vodka hes crazy

    February 7, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  14. Liz Brown

    Putin drinks too much vodka hes crazy...those poor girls

    February 7, 2014 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  15. Nikita

    I'm shocked ...
    Not sure what the correct translated text, mine was told that in Russia earn 3-4 dollars a month? it's not more than the theater ! Minimum wage , even in the poorest part of the population of 230 dollars a month , which is considered a minimum . srenie and salary in the country 833 dollars a month , and it is all provided – : FREE education, free medical care , the minimum threshold of unemployment.
    In my opinion you have your media blatantly lie , you set up against us.
    Participants in this punk band are not defenders of liberty, they do not respect the cultural heritage , and what would you do with those who like revealing the whole country propagate immorality and violence, not respecting their country and lyuey who live in it .
    I'm in America would be for this act , put on Electrical chair.

    February 7, 2014 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  16. Maria

    Is it just me or did they seem very ungrateful to be on the show? The women hardly greeted Amanpour at all, and their expressions were stern and unforgiving. I understand that they are talking about a subject matter that is very serious for them, but I feel like their hardness was almost rude.

    February 8, 2014 at 3:11 am | Reply
  17. Tahri Mohammed

    Freedoms of expression:leaders in the world

    February 8, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  18. Zina Ciceklic

    Obavezno, da im omogućite nastupe u katedralama i u Vatikanu.

    February 9, 2014 at 2:57 am | Reply
  19. rupert

    I like the one on the left. Women with long straight hair are the best.

    February 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  20. Umah

    Freedom doesn't mean breaking into a church to desecrate it. Would they try that in a mosque?

    February 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  21. onerwp

    How Vladimir Putin Stashed Away A Secret $70 Billion Personal ...
    http://www.celebritynetworth.com › Articles › Celebrity News‎
    2 days ago – Vladimir Putin claims to have a relatively meager net worth and salary. ... of power stashed away a reported $200 billion in ill-gotten oil money.

    February 9, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Reply
  22. Mike

    S L U T S !

    February 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  23. Mike
    February 9, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  24. Lars

    Russia assassinates journalists and sends female who protest to Siberia. Here is our music video about President Putin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjTE85Mjw3U

    February 10, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  25. Agim

    }}}}}}}}}}-------------->eeEUuu<Robert Schuman ::::::::::::::::::::___UNION DE LA FRANCE FORTE___::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::'''''''and,,,,,free,,,,Europe,,,,,with''''''''::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::......you,,,,,, Angela Merkel,,,,,,,,......::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

    February 11, 2014 at 12:31 am | Reply
  26. Princely Charles Adkins

    My dear good viewers and believers of law and international jurisdictions on Sovereignty. I would like you people to join and air view s with the Radio Biafran London. Biafra is a country that her people have being treated badly by government of Nigeria and we want the world to know why we want our own sovereign state. Click the cite to know why we breaking out from Nigeria.http://radiobiafra.co/

    February 18, 2014 at 12:17 am | Reply
  27. Snajay

    I couldn't more agree with you. They can put them in jail. Putin you are shameless. I would mind them taunting and teasing me.

    February 6, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.