Russian Police Arrested a Member of the Art Collective Pussy Riot Allegedly to Prevent Her From Performing ‘Stunts’ During a Military Parade

Police arrested Veronika Nikulshina outside her home ahead of Russia's Victory Day.

Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina was detained by police. Photo courtesy of Twitter.
Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina was detained by police. Photo courtesy of Twitter.

Over the weekend, police in Russia arrested a member of Pussy Riot, the punk band and performance artist group. Four officers detained Veronika Nikulshina near her home, and then took her to the Dorogomilovo police station, according to a video posted to the social-media app Telegram and shared on Open Media.

Police held Nikulshina on charges of disobeying the police, according to her lawyer, Mansur Gilmanov, though the news agency Interfax reported that the activist was arrested in order to “prevent possible provocations” while rehearsals were taking place for the country’s Victory Day military parade on May 9. Authorities worried that the Pussy Riot member would attempt to stage a protest or other “stunt” at the annual celebration of the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.

In a brief statement on Pussy Riot’s Twitter account, the group confirmed that Nikulshina was arrested for five days and wrote, “Putin’s traditional values: to detain pussy riot members” before the May 9 festivities. Meanwhile, another Pussy Riot miember, Sasha Sofeev, was spending the night in jail awaiting trial.

In response to a Twitter commenter who asked what Nikulshina did to prompt the arrest, Pussy Riot responded, “nothing much! simply walked out of her apt.”

Nikulshina is no stranger to Russian police. In 2018, she stormed the field during the World Cup finals in Moscow along with Pussy Riot members Olga Kuracheva, Olga Pakhtusova, and Peter Verzilov as part of a protest against Russia’s political and prison systems. Nikulshina was photographed gleefully high-fiving French footballer Kylian Mbappé on the field, while officials chased the other members around the green in a surreal scene. Eventually they were taken into custody and given 15-day prison sentences for the action, and barred from attending sport events for three years.

Just days later, Verzilov was admitted to the hospital for a serious condition that might have involved poisoning. According to Nikulshina, Verzilov’s health deteriorated soon after appearing in court, and he was unconscious for three days. Nikulshina was also arrested in 2020 for draping rainbow flags on government buildings to mark Vladimir Putin’s birthday.

Another Russian artist, Yulia Tsvetkova, is facing trial for charges of disseminating pornography because of her artwork celebrating the female body, body positivity, and LGBTQ+ families. In 2019 and 2020, the artist was found guilty of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” and currently faces up to six years for the charges. Tsvetkova began a hunger strike at the beginning of the month to demand her trial be made public, but announced via Facebook that she had stopped the strike over the weekend because of the pain it was causing her mother, doctors, and lawyers.

“And if my hatred of cowardice and meanness is strong, then my love for those who are close to me is stronger still,” she wrote in the post.


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