Advertisement

Pussy Riot Founder Maria Alyokhina Escaped Russia Disguised as Food Courier

"It sounds like a spy novel," Maria Alyokhina says of her escape

pussy riot escape russia food courier Maria Alyokhina putin ukraine war
Maria Alyokhina, image via Instagram
Advertisement
Advertisement

    Maria Alyokhina, one of the founding members of the activist punk collective Pussy Riot, has escaped from Russia after disguising herself as a food courier.

    In an interview with The New York TimesAlyokhina said she made the decision to flee her homeland during an April crackdown on protesters, as President Vladimir Putin attempted to silence criticism of his war in Ukraine. After spending 15 days in jail in February for what her captors told her was “propaganda of Nazi symbolism” — actually a 2015 Instagram post in which she criticized Putin’s ally, the Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko — she had been serving what amounts to house arrest in Moscow. Then, authorities told her that her house arrest would be converted to 21 days in a penal colony.

    “They are scared because they cannot control us,” she said.

    For her escape, Alyokhina dressed in a bright green hoodie while wearing an insulated food delivery backpack. To avoid being tracked, she left her phone at the apartment where she had lived under surveillance.

    Advertisement

    A friend drove her west to the Belarusian border. But Belarus remains allied with Russia, and from there she attempted to cross into Lithuania, a member of the European Union.

    By that time, she had been placed on Russia’s “wanted” list, and while she possessed a Lithuanian visa, the Belarusian border guards were skeptical. For her first attempt, she was detained six hours before being sent home. On her second try, the guard hardly bothered to question her before shooing her away.

    For the third effort, a friend helped smuggle travel documents into Belarus that had been issued by a country in the European Union, granting Alyokhina the equivalent status of an E.U. citizen. The country that issued those documents asked not to be identified, probably for fear of Russian retaliation. With these new official papers, she boarded a bus for Lithuania and encountered no resistance. She was free.

    Advertisement

    “A lot of magic happened last week,” she said. “It sounds like a spy novel.”

    Pussy Riot is now planning a European tour with the aim of raising funds for Ukraine. Besides that, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova has launched an NFT to aid Ukraine during the war.

    “I don’t think Russia has a right to exist anymore,” Alyokhina said. “Even before, there were questions about how it is united, by what values it is united, and where it is going. But now I don’t think that is a question anymore.”

    Alyokhina hopes to return to Russia one day, though she doesn’t know when that will be possible .But she plans to be happy no matter where she lands. “If your heart is free,” she said, “it doesn’t matter where you are.”

    In addition to their upcoming European tour, Pussy Riot are scheduled to appear at Outside Lands in San Francisco in August, and Canada’s Rifflandia Festival in September. Tickets are available here.

    Advertisement

Personalized Stories

Around The Web

Advertisement