The defiant message behind that pitch invasion at the World Cup final

Pussy Riot invades world cup final to highlight rights abuses
Carole Concha Bell

Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk-rock band and activist collective, has claimed authorship of the World Cup final pitch invasion on 15 July.

It cites human rights concerns as a reason for the action.

‘Violating spectators’ rights’

Three women and one man ran onto the pitch during the World Cup final between France and Croatia, before security apprehended them.

One of the women, Olga Kurachyova, told Reuters that she participated in the protest and is currently being detained in a Moscow prison.

They have since been charged with “violation of spectators’ rights” and illegally wearing police symbols.

Rights abuses in Putin’s Russia

The activists claim that they carried out the action to draw attention to President Putin’s authoritarian style of governance.

Speaking out against the government – whether through peaceful protest or even clicking a ‘like‘ button on Facebook – can land you in prison. The suppression of political opponents is also a problem, according to human rights activists.

LGBTQ+ rights, meanwhile, are dismal – particularly after Putin passed a law in 2013 prohibiting the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations and barred same sex couples from adopting. And in Chechnya, a quasi-independent state within Russia, the crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights in 2017 saw gay men rounded up, beaten and imprisoned, causing international outrage.

Some Pussy Riot members have themselves been subjected to two years of imprisonment for speaking out against Putin.

According to the band’s Twitter page, the authors of the pitch invasion are still in custody:

A number of groups around the world have already shown support for the World Cup protest.

Demands

The band issued a list of demands to the Russian government on Twitter, including freeing “political prisoners”, ending “illegal arrests” at protests, and allowing “political competition”.

The reference to ‘the heavenly policeman’ at the end of the group’s demands points to the anniversary of the death of non-conformist Russian artist and poet Dmitri Prigov. His concept of the ‘ideal policeman‘ is seen as a critique of authoritarianism.

Behind the theatre

The members of Pussy Riot involved in the World Cup protest risked their freedom to give a voice to Russia’s prisoners of conscience. And in doing so, they forced the world to sit up and take note.

If Putin was hoping to whitewash the human rights abuses of his government behind the theatrics of the World Cup, he has failed miserably.

Get Involved!

– Sign the petition calling for the release of film-maker Oleg Sentsov. Find out more about him here and here.

– Read more Russia-related articles here.

Featured image via Guardian/YouTube

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