Another Pussy Riot Member Leaves Russia Amid Crackdown

Aleksandr Sofeyev, a member of the Pussy Riot performance-art collective, has left Russia after being released from custody following his second arrest in less than a month.

Sofeyev told Open Media before boarding a plane on July 19 that he had decided to leave the country because of the ongoing state "persecution" of Pussy Riot members.

A day earlier, another Pussy Riot member, Veronika Nikulshina, said she left Russia right after she was released from jail after serving a 15-day sentence for allegedly disobeying police.

Sofeyev said he was followed by officers of the Interior Ministry's anti-extremism directorate on his way to the airport. He added that he has not emigrated and plans to return to Russia, possibly after the country’s legislative elections in September.

Another Pussy Riot member, Anna Kuzminykh, said on July 18 after she was released from jail that she plans to leave Russia as well.

Members of the Pussy Riot group have been under pressure for several months. Since May, Sofeyev and Nikulshina were arrested repeatedly on charges of minor hooliganism or disobedience to police and sentenced to jail terms of between 10 days and 15 days. In many cases they were rearrested right after they finished their previous sentences.

Pussy Riot came to prominence in 2012 when five members of the group burst into Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral to protest ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Their protest -- the performance of a song they described as a "punk prayer" -- took place as Putin was campaigning for his return to the presidency.

Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were convicted on a charge of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. The duo were close to completing their sentences when they were granted amnesty in December 2013.

In another protest, Pussy Riot members -- including Nikulshina -- interrupted the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow between France and Croatia by running onto the field wearing fake police uniforms.