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Video shows Pussy Riot members beaten by Cossacks

By Ivan Watson, CNN
updated 5:17 PM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Video shows men in Cossack uniforms beating, pepper spraying band members
  • Attackers hit the women with batons, tore off their ski masks, the video shows
  • Police and Cossacks attacked them in Sochi, the group says
  • CNN is trying to get comment from Russian authorities

Sochi, Russia (CNN) -- A video released Wednesday shows members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot being beaten by security officials in Sochi as they tried to film a music video at the port of the city that is hosting the Winter Olympics.

The apparent attack happened just a day after band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, as well as journalists and Russian human rights activists, were detained for several hours at a police station located just a few miles from the Olympic Park.

A YouTube video of the new incident shows band members arriving at the port, surrounded by photographers. The women don ski masks in front of a Sochi 2014 sign and, as they began to perform, one band member is immediately pepper sprayed at close range by a man wearing the traditional headgear of the Cossacks.

Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot rehearse in Moscow in February 2012. The feminist group has been highly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies. A couple of its members were even found guilty of hooliganism and imprisoned for a 2012 "punk prayer" performance at a Russian Orthodox cathedral. They were freed from prison in December but said they will continue to be a "headache" for Putin's government. Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot rehearse in Moscow in February 2012. The feminist group has been highly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies. A couple of its members were even found guilty of hooliganism and imprisoned for a 2012 "punk prayer" performance at a Russian Orthodox cathedral. They were freed from prison in December but said they will continue to be a "headache" for Putin's government.
Pussy Riot: Rocking out against Putin
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Sochi police whip Pussy Riot while on cam
Pussy Riot tweets pics of alleged attack
Pussy Riot detained in Sochi
Pussy Riot members detained near Sochi

Some of the women are then struck with a baton before several Cossacks descend on them, shoving and violently removing their ski masks. One of the band members is thrown to the ground by the security men, who also beat a photographer. After the women were beaten and walked away from the port, the security men are seen on the video shoving and beating two other men.

The band said it was trying to perform a new song called "Putin teaches us to love our motherland" at the main port in Sochi.

'You sold yourselves to the Americans'

Uniformed Cossacks in traditional fur hats and uniforms have accompanied Russian police as a colorful addition to the massive security presence around the Winter Games.

Tolokonnikova said on her Twitter account that Cossacks beat the band with billy clubs and pepper spray.

Aisya Krugovikh, a member of the band's entourage, said that during the altercation, some Cossacks yelled that Pussy Riot members should "shut their mouths," adding "you sold yourselves to the Americans."

CNN has repeatedly tried to contact Russian city officials by telephone and e-mail for comment on the allegations.

Among those apparently wounded in Wednesday's clash was a Russian artist named Alexei Knyebnikovsky, who Krugovikh said was bleeding from the face.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina published photos on their Twitter accounts of bruises on Tolokonnikova's chest and a man with blood on his face "after an attack by Cossacks."

Tolokonnikova also tweeted she was at a Sochi hospital taking care of her husband, who she wrote had "lost vision" due to pepper spray from Cossacks.

The previous day, band members were detained by police, who said they were investigating a theft at the hotel where the band was staying.

Ex-Pussy Riot members detained, released
Ambassadors spar over Pussy Riot
Pussy Riot: 'no reasons to be afraid'

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, as well as the journalists and activists, were released without charges, but they said they were beaten while in custody.

On Wednesday, Tolokonnikova's husband, Petr Verzilov, told CNN the band had been detained and questioned by Russian security forces three times during a three-day visit to the Olympic city.

"Obviously, they are trying to let us know that we're not welcome here," Verzilov said Tuesday in an interview with CNN. "But we treat Sochi as part of Russia and according to Russian law any Russian citizen can go anywhere."

In Sochi for protests

The band members were in Sochi to protest what they said was the lack of freedom of speech and to record the music video critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had been imprisoned for nearly two years after being convicted of "hooliganism" and inciting religious hatred for performing a punk song slamming Putin in a Moscow cathedral and then posting a video of it online.

Since their release, just before the Olympic Games began, they have spoken to journalists about their time behind bars, describing the conditions as squalid and their treatment by guards as demeaning and inhumane.

A third member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released in 2012.

This month, other band members said Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were no longer part of the group. But Verzilov said Tuesday that wasn't true.

READ: Members of Pussy Riot released in Sochi

READ: Pussy Riot tells Amanpour: 'We are free people, and free people feel no fear'

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