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Masha Alekhina, Pussy Riot
Via Instagram/@all_mary

Pussy Riot’s Masha Alekhina is jailed for posting ‘extremist propaganda’

The activist has been jailed for the second time in two months, in connection with a 2015 Instagram post featuring swastika imagery

Masha Alekhina, an activist and central member of the protest collective Pussy Riot, has reportedly been arrested by Russian authorities for the second time in two months, over a photo posted to Instagram in 2015. 

According to MediaZona – the independent Russian media outlet founded by Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova following their release from prison in 2013 – Alekhina was detained on Monday (February 7). In an Instagram post, she reports that police were waiting outside after she registered with legal services, in accordance with a ruling about her “violation of sanitary and epidemiological rules” at a January 2021 protest in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Alekhina was then sentenced to 15 days in prison on February 8, for “propaganda of Nazi symbolism”. In December last year, charges were brought against the activist in relation to a photo she posted to Instagram back in May 2015, which depicted the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko surrounded by symbols that appear to be swastikas. Her partner, Lucy Shtein, was detained at the same time on similar charges.

“I think that after last year no one doubts that Lukashenka is a pure fascist,” Alekhina wrote in a post anticipating her arrest on December 15. “So I’ll go to the detention center with a clear conscience.”

Now, MediaZona reports that another photo from May 2015 is at the centre of her latest arrest. Depicting three young women wearing hijabs, the image includes Hindi script and swastikas, labelled as “traditional symbols of Indian culture” by the state-owned news organisation RIA Novosti. The symbols have been edited out by news outlets to avoid further charges.

Alekhina’s arrest follows a cycle of “continuous arrests” against Pussy Riot, which forced several of the group’s members to leave Russia in 2021.

In January this year, Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Nika Nikulshina also responded to being labelled “foreign agents” by the Russian government, in further attempts to undermine the collective’s attempts to criticise the ruling government from abroad.