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World Cup: Pussy Riot protesters charged over pitch demonstration

Intruder high-fiving Mbappé

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Reuters

Image caption

One of the pitch invaders high-fived France’s Mbappé

Russian authorities have charged four members of the punk activist group Pussy Riot for disrupting the World Cup final by running onto the pitch.

They are accused of violating the rules for spectators at sporting events and of wearing police uniforms illegally.

The two offences carry maximum fines of 10,000 roubles (£121; $161) and 1,500 roubles, respectively.

Pussy Riot said it was a protest against human rights abuses in Russia. Stewards hauled the four off the pitch.

The incident interrupted the second half of the Croatia v France match for about 25 seconds. France went on to win 4-2.

Pussy Riot has staged high-profile protests against President Vladimir Putin before. Three members were jailed in 2012 for an anti-Putin punk song performed in a Moscow cathedral.

The group has tweeted that the four arrested on Sunday spent the whole night at a police station in great discomfort and will be taken to court to face the charges for “administrative offences”.

Contrasting reactions

Three women and a man ran onto the pitch, though one was tackled on the sidelines. They wore police-style uniforms: white shirts, black trousers and epaulettes.

One woman managed to do a high-five salute with French star Kylian Mbappé before being led off the pitch.

But the male intruder was grabbed in anger by Croatia defender Dejan Lovren. After the incident Lovren told reporters: “I just lost my head and I grabbed the guy and I wished I could throw him away from the stadium.”

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Reuters

Image caption

Croatia’s Lovren grabbed one of the intruders

The man was identified as Pyotr Verzilov, husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. She was among three Pussy Riot members jailed in 2012.

The three women World Cup intruders were named as Nika Nikulshina, Olga Kurachyova and Olga Pakhtusova.

A statement from Pussy Riot said the aims of their protest included making the Russian authorities:

  • Free all political prisoners
  • Stop illegal arrests at public rallies
  • Allow political competition in the country
  • Stop fabricating criminal cases and jailing people on remand for no reason

The statement quoted a Russian poet, Dmitry Prigov, who had contrasted the “heavenly policeman who speaks to God on his walkie-talkie” with “the earthly one who fabricates criminal cases”.

The Russian anti-Putin activist and blogger Alexei Navalny has tweeted a video clip showing two of the pitch invaders being interrogated.

An angry voice is heard shouting at Mr Verzilov and one of the women – looking dishevelled in their mock police uniforms.

“Sometimes I regret that it’s not 1937” the person off-camera says, alluding to the communist-era terror campaign instigated by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

World Cup: Pussy Riot protesters charged over pitch demonstration

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