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http://news.yahoo.com/pussy-riot-comes-to-washington-213317690.html

By Sarah Wildman | Yahoo News

Before they were a punch line in Joel McHale’s tart monologue -— “America, where everyone can be a Pussy Riot” — the real Pussy Riot came to Washington for that long weekend when the city’s political class preens for Hollywood, itself, or both. Two members of the Russian feminist punk collective known for hiding individual identities under balaclavas would mingle at fetes where Jessica Simpson could swan alongside Sen. John McCain, where Valerie Jarrett would take photographs with Questlove, and where tittering over drinks with the powerful can lead to policy developments with consequences.

It all started a week in advance, with an email: Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alyokhina, the members of Pussy Riot jailed for two years after performing a 40-second anti-Vladimir Putin punk prayer at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, would be arriving in Washington during the weekend of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in advance of a week of lobbying to raise awareness of ongoing human rights abuses in Russia.

They were hoping, apparently, to come to the Yahoo News-ABC News predinner reception at the Washington Hilton hotel. A warmly welcoming email was sent in reply. Schedules flew back and forth, but little was certain. They would be at Washington hostess Tammy Haddad’s annual Saturday Garden Brunch! (Unless they weren’t.) They would speak at the National Press Club! (Unless they wouldn’t.) They were here to tell their story! (Unless, because of the language barrier, they couldn’t.)

In the end they made the scene, but five days would pass before they made a ripple outside the celebrity selfie-sphere. When they finally took the stage on Tuesday in a hallway outside the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after a 30-minute meeting with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and the members of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the tragedy of that missed opportunity was immediately apparent.
. . . . . . . . .
Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, a member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, called Pussy Riot “heroes” to people around the globe.

Finally, Nadya and Masha — speaking in Russian, with translation — issued their call for attention to be paid to ongoing human rights abuses in Russia. “We have to talk about these people, we have to talk about our political prisoners because we know that silence is the most dangerous thing for a political prisoner,” Masha said.

Despite the formality of the setting and the stiffness of the occasion, they were in their element. Nadya spoke rapidly, forcefully. “A lot of words have been said about us today but they are not exactly correct. We believe those words should be said about those in real danger right this moment. … One of the main slogans of Putin is stability. And we can state that Putin leads Russia to complete instability, and chaos.”

When she finished skewering Putin’s Russia, she and Masha added a dig at the country hosting her. “We heard last night,” Masha told the crowd, “about Occupy Wall Street protester” Cecily McMillan, who is facing seven years in prison after being convicted of assaulting a police officer who was arresting her on March 17, 2012. “We were appalled and saddened to hear about that,” Masha said. “We have sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and we honestly believe no country should have political prisoners.”

The crowd began to shout questions, more cameras clicked and journalists surged forward, jockeying for the attention of the two “girls” who suddenly seemed taller then they had all weekend. Nadya finally smiled.

[Editor’s note: There is LOTS more to this article. The girls in Pussy Riot need to be heard — ’cause something needs to be done about their cause — and soon.]

 

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