PRESS RELEASE: Masha Alekhina of Pussy Riot designated first “AR-Resident Prisoner”

BREAKING: On Thursday 16 December 2021, Masha was arrested from her front door in an unmarked car and  given a further arbitrary 15-day sentence for a post about President Lukashenko of Belarus from 2015.

Press Release

Masha Alekhina of Pussy Riot designated first

“Artists at Risk-Resident Prisoner”

December 2021

For Immediate Release

The Russian government’s ongoing assault on civil society is devastating human rights advocates and organisations, small and large. Recent moves to dissolve International Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Russia’s premier human rights organisations (see AR’s statement on Memorial), come at a time when another of its most famous human rights advocates is a victim of sustained legal attacks: Maria Alekhina of Pussy Riot. 

Masha is a prisoner in her own home – at least she was until 16 December, when she was again thrown into a closed cell for 15 days on arbitrary charges for 15 days, the third time in a few months. On 10 September she was handed down a sentence of ‘restricted freedom’ for one year.  This a is a complicated regime which limitings her daily sorties, her online communications and other activities, but, but is designed to avoid the term ‘house arrest’. In response to this cruel Russian Russian game of names of names, and in solidarity with her cause, Artists at Risk (AR) has designated Maria Alekhina our first Artists at Risk (AR)-Resident Prisoner”, said AR co-founder and director Ivor Stodolsky.

Maria ‘Masha’ Alekhina is under arrest for a tweet. This short tweet simply announced that she looked forward to seeing friends on the street. The problem, at least for Putin’s regime, was that Masha was going to a demonstration in protest against the fraudulent parliamentary elections and the Russian government’s harsh mistreatment of opposition-leader Alexei Navalny in January earlier this year. 

With the title of AR-Resident Prisoner, Artists at Risk (AR) launches a new format. Just as human rights activists who are unable to attend events in person are accorded a symbolic ‘empty chair’ to mark their absence, the term ‘AR-Resident Prisoner’ designates a ‘full prison cell’. Such resident-prisoners cannot be hosted at one of AR’s 20 physical residency-locations around the world. The prison-cell itself is the locus of their artist-in-residency. 

With this symbolic designation Artists at Risk (AR) reaches beyond the material support AR usually offers, to honour a persecuted artist who can neither legally be supported financially nor hosted physically at an AR-Residency. In Alekhina’s case, a residency-stipend would automatically make her a ‘foreign agent’ under Russian law. Furthermore, she does not wish to leave Russia, but could not do so in any case, as her passport has been confiscated”, continued AR co-founder and director Marita Muukkonen.

Artists at Risk (AR) hopes Alekhina’s AR-Prison Residency will be concluded as successfully as her first jail sentence of hard labour in the Ural Mountains. At the time, following her release, she published a dramatic account of her arrest for Pussy Riot’s famed Punk Prayer in Moscow’s central cathedral, and her truly unbelievable legal battle for basic rights from inside the punitive, labyrinthine Russian prison system. The resulting book, Riot Days, can be compared without shrinking to Solzhinitsyn’s renowned One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Artists at Risk (AR) admires and supports Masha’s remarkable courage and hopes her renewed ‘residency’ in prison will be equally fruitful.

For press enquiries or to request an interview with / news of Masha Alekhina, please contact Artists at Risk (AR):

Email: press@artistsatrisk.org    

Telephone: +49 17670625751

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About Artists at Risk (AR)

ARTISTS at RISK (AR) is a non-profit network institution at the intersection of human rights and the arts. AR is dedicated to mapping the field of persecuted art practitioners, facilitating their safe passage from their countries of origin, hosting them at AR-Residencies and curating related projects, including the AR Pavilion and further programmes. An upcoming conference at the Centre for Art and Media ZKM on 11-12 February 2022 will focus on “Institutions and Resistance – Alliances for Art at Risk”.
www.artistsatrisk.org 

About Maria ‘Masha’ Alekhina

Maria ‘Masha’ Alekhina is a Russian artist, writer, political activist and founding member of the famed punk band Pussy Riot. Masha was imprisoned for two years in response to Pussy Riot’s 2012 ‘punk prayer’, Virgin Mary, banish Putin and recognized as a political prisoner by Amnesty International. In 2017, Masha published Riot Days (Penguin Books UK) which was received to great acclaim and has since been translated into eight languages.

Alekhina was arrested in January 2021 for a tweet promoting protests in support of jailed Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny, which the authorities had forbidden on ‘sanitary’ grounds (Covid-19). In what has come to be known as the Sanitary Case, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court issued an order of pre-trial detention under house arrest on January 29, 2021. This was later renewed by the Basmanny District Court on March 18, again by the Moscow City Court on April 8, and finally extended on June 16 for another 6 months. Then, on June 22 Alekhina was sentenced to 15-day ‘administrative detention’ in a closed prison. On release, she was rearrested outside the prison gates, and given another 15 days administrative detention. On December 10, Maria Alekhina was finally sentenced to one year of ‘restricted freedom’ – a complicated regime restricting her daily sorties, her online communications, travel and other activities. On December 16, she was given an additional 15 days in closed prison.

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