Pussy Riot rocker escapes Russia to raise money for Ukraine

A member of dissident punk group Pussy Riot escaped Russia while disguised as a food delivery worker — a daring journey to “make a statement” against the invasion of Ukraine, she said.

Maria Alyokhina — who spent nearly two years in prison along with bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova after their 2012 arrest for criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s main cathedral — said Wednesday she decided she’d had enough while staying at a girlfriend’s apartment in Moscow.

Alyokhina, better known as “Masha,” recalled her escape from Russia to Lithuania during an interview with CNN, saying she had been arrested six times since last summer for her public rebukes of Putin and spent 15 days in jail each time.

“This time I just decided that my tour was scheduled and it’s important for me to make a statement against the war as loud as I can and to speak as loud as I can [on] what I’ve seen in Russia,” Alyokhina said. “So, I made a small change and decided not to spend these 21 days in prison but spend it at the rehearsal studio.”

Alyokhina told CNN she and her girlfriend, Lucy Shtein, donned green jackets while disguised as food couriers to evade Moscow police officers who had staked out her friend’s apartment.

Maria Alyokina
Maria Alyokhina disguised herself as a delivery worker to flee the country.
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Maria Vladimirovna of the punk group Pussy Riot seen in 2017 photo.
Maria Vladimirovna of the punk group Pussy Riot seen in a 2017 photo.
AFP via Getty Images

“I think it was Lucy’s idea and she used it first,” Alyokhina told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I used it when it was my turn.”

Alyokhina, who said her international passport had been confiscated by Russian authorities, first had a friend drive her to Russia’s border with Belarus before making her way into Lithuania, where she stayed at locations without formally registering.

It took her three tries to get into Lithuania, Alyokhina said.

Maria Alyokina
Alyokhina has been arrested six times since last summer for her public rebukes of Putin.
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images
Masked members of protest band Pussy Riot leave a police station in Adler during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 18, 2014.
Pussy Riot members leave a police station in Adler during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

“The first time was [a] nightmare, second time was OK, they just said no,” she recalled. “First time was terrible. First time was like a search of me, the car of where I was, two hours speaking with terrible KGB investigators and so on.”

Russian authorities announced in April that Alyokhina’s house arrest for her latest legal woes would be converted to 21 days in a penal colony, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Her daring escape from her cam 10 years after she was arrested for “hooliganism” during Pussy Riot’s Putin protest in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

“I was happy that I made it,” Alyokhina told the New York Times from an apartment in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. “I still don’t understand completely what I’ve done.”

Alyokhina, 33, said she hopes to one day return to Russia, but it’s unclear if and when that may happen, she said. For now, Alyokhina and 11 other members of Pussy Riot have their sights set on Berlin, where they’ll start the tour Thursday to raise money for Ukraine.

“If your heart is free, it doesn’t matter where you are,” Alyokhina told the New York Times.

alyokina tweeted thursday that she “left the Russian state for tea,” leaving behind her electronic bracelet that had tracked her movements in Moscow.

“And in life there was one super adventure more,” she wrote in a post translated from Russian.

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