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Citizenship

Here's What Pussy Riot's World Cup Protest Was Really About


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The Pussy Riot protest was meant to challenge political persecution in Russia, which has sharply risen in recent years. The United Nations’ Global Goal 16 calls for political transparency and the protection of human rights. You can take action on these issues here.

Four protesters dressed as prim police officers dashed onto the field of the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia on Sunday, according to the BBC.  

The disruption, and one of the sole political demonstrations of the World Cup, was the work of the Russian activist group Pussy Riot, and all participating members were swiftly detained and imprisoned, The New York Times reports.  

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Since 2011, Pussy Riot has staged protests and performances to denounce political persecution and call for the protection of human rights in Russia, according to The New Yorker.

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The action on Sunday continues that tradition. The protesters were dressed in mock police uniforms to evoke the Russian dissident poet Aleksandrovich Prigov, who wrote about “heavenly” police officers protecting a utopian society, versus “earthly” police officers, who maintain the status quo of repression, according to The New Yorker.

Pussy Riot released a list of demands in a video accompanying their protest.

1. Free all political prisoners.

2. Stop jailing people for social-media “likes.”

3. Stop illegal arrests at protests.

4. Allow political competition.

5. Stop fabricating criminal cases and putting people in jail for no reason.

6. Turn the earthly policeman into a Heavenly Policeman.

“The Heavenly Policeman will protect a baby in her sleep, while the earthly policeman persecutes political prisoners and jails people for sharing and liking posts on social media,” the group said in a video statement.

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Political repression has long been the norm in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, according to Human RIghts Watch (HRW), and politically motivated arrests, detentions, and torture have sharply risen in the past few years.

Legitimate opposition to Putin’s rule, meanwhile, is virtually impossible, given the widespread crackdowns on assembly, campaigning, and more. Online expression is no more secure, according to HRW, which is heavily monitored for signs of dissent.

Read More: 6 Things You Shouldn't Forget as Russia Hosts the 2018 World Cup

And the World Cup has been the cause of various human rights violations. Since construction began on stadiums for the tournament, 17 workers have died due to shoddy oversight, wages have been withheld, and dozens of people have been detained, HRW documents.

Pussy Riot has long opposed Russian corruption, extrajudicial violence, discrimination against LGBTQ people, and more through their actions.

In recent years, international actors have grown increasingly agitated over the information warfare that Russia has waged against other countries in an effort to destabilize democracies.

The US, in particular, recently indicted 12 Russian security agents for heavily interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Read More: Why the Inquiry Into Trump and Russia Is Critical for Global Democracy

US President Donald Trump is meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday to discuss this and other issues but, based on early press reports on the summit, he will not be criticizing Russia for nefarious political activity.

“They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said of the allegations in a press conference.