Two former members of Pussy Riot, who were arrested for hooliganism after staging a protest in a Russian church in 2012, made appearances in the U.S. during an Amnesty International concert on Wednesday, February 5. Before taking the stage at New York's Barclays Center, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were introduced by pop queen Madonna.
Donning a black coat and a beanie, the "Material Girl" hitmaker revealed that she received death threats during her Russian tour after defending Pussy Riot. "The right to be free, to speak our minds, to have an opinion, to love who we want to love, to be who we are-do we have to fight for that?" she told the crowd.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, who were released from jail last December under an amnesty bill, then appeared on the stage to talk about human rights via their translator. "Thank you to all of those who are bold enough and who care enough to speak out against injustice and speak the truth," Alekhina said.
The duo, who has always been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also told the audience that they were grateful to be free but have to continue to fight to save others imprisoned.
That night's event also featured appearances from some musicians that included Imagine Dragons, Lauryn Hill, Colbie Caillat and The Fray. The Las Vegas band played their Grammy Award-winning track "Radioactive", while Hill sang "Ready or Not".
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have been fired from Pussy Riot. In a statement posted on their website on Thursday Feburary 6, several group members said, "As it happened that we and [Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina] are now on the different sides of the barricades, please, separate us."
"Remember, we are no longer [Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina], and they are no longer Pussy Riot," they continued. "Unfortunately, we cannot personally congratulate them on that because they refuse any contacts with us."
"However, to our regret, [Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina] got so much immersed in problems at Russian prisons that they completely forgot about the agenda and ideals of our band, such as feminism, separatist resistance, fight against totalitarianism and personality cult, [the pursuing of] which, basically, led to their unfair punishment," they added.
Madonna Introduces Former Pussy Riot Members:
Imagine Dragons' Performance:
Lauryn Hill's Performance:
The Fray's Performance: