Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Anti-Putin rockers flee Russia

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MOSCOW -- Two members of the punk band Pussy Riot have fled Russia to avoid prosecution for a protest against Vladimir Putin that sent three of their band mates to prison, the group said Sunday.

Five members of the feminist group took part in a provocative performance inside Moscow's main cathedral in February to protest the Russian leader's rule and his cosy relationship with the Orthodox Church. The women wore their trademark garishly coloured balaclavas, which made it difficult for police to identify them, and only three were arrested.

After a controversial trial that highlighted Putin's crackdown on dissent since he began a third presidential term in May, the three band members were convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison on Aug. 17. Days later, Moscow police said they were searching for the other band members, an apparent warning to the group to stop its anti-Putin protests.

Pussy Riot tweeted on Sunday the two activists had fled Russia and are "recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new protest actions." No mention was made of where they went.

At least 12 other members of the group remain in Russia, another message on Twitter said.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 A12

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