Four Pussy Riot Members Are Arrested After Storming the Field During the World Cup Final

The activist group's performance "Policeman Enters the Game" is a show of solidarity with Russia's political prisoners.

Members of Pussy Riot released a video taking credit for storming the field during the FIFA World Cup finals on Sunday evening.

The world of sports had a surprise interference from the art world at the FIFA World Cup finals this Sunday. Four activists dressed as Russian police stormed onto the pitch during the game between France and Croatia, chased by security staff before being dragged off the field. Members of the activist collective Pussy Riot took credit for the spectacle via Facebook, saying it was a protest on behalf of political prisoners. The match on Sunday in Moscow was watched by the Russian President Vladimir Putin and a global TV audience of hundreds of millions.

One of the activists high-fived the French player Kylian Mbappé, while Croatia’s Dejan Lovren helped detain another. The Russian Interior Ministry confirmed the arrest of three women and one man. In a statement, Pussy Riot said the members had been detained overnight in Moscow and that they are due to come before a court today, but that they have not been provided details about when the hearing will take place and have not been permitted to speak to their lawyer. 

The performance, which Pussy Riot said online was called “Policeman enters the Game,” marked the 11th anniversary since the death of Russian dissident artist and poet Dmitriy Prigov. Referencing Prigov’s concept of the “heavenly policeman,” the group compared his poetic archetype with an “earthly policeman,” who disperses rallies, disregards rules, and is fearful of World Cup celebrations. The heavenly policeman, on other the hand, respects rules, polices well, and celebrates Russia’s World Cup. The earthly policeman “breaks our world apart,” they say in a statement.

An unverified video that surfaced shows two of the field runners being interrogated by officials, both still breathing heavily after their sprint. The official says: “Sometimes I regret that it isn’t [19]37,” a reference to the Great Terror unleashed by the dictator Josef Stalin. The Soviet leader ordered the imprisonment or death of an estimated 1.2 million people who were deemed opponents to the State between 1936 and 1938.

The post-punk feminist art collective has been operating at the intersection of art and politics since 2011, criticizing Russia’s political surveillance and the oppression of free speech. Last winter, London’s Saatchi Gallery hosted the Russian “artivists” and their immersive theatre performance called “Inside Pussy Riot,” which set out to recreate the experience of being in Russian prison. Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were arrested and charged with hooliganism in 2012 after performing a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral. Both spent nearly two years in jail. This April, the group released a line of merchandise to support the independent investigative Russian newsite Mediazona, which they helped establish in 2014.

Their list of demands following the World Cup demonstration are:

1. Let all political prisoners free.
2. Not imprison for “likes.”
3. Stop Illegal arrests on rallies.
4. Allow political competition in the country.
5. Not fabricate criminal accusations and not keep people in jails for no reason.
6. Turn the earthly policeman into the heavenly policeman.

Russian police later stated that the protesters will be fined up to 200,000 rubles ($2,700) or have to perform 160 hours of community service.


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