MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot were attacked by a group of men who poured rubbish and bright green paint over them and shouted obscenities at them at a McDonald’s restaurant.
An online video, uploaded by the group on Thursday, shows at least three men attacking Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, shouting “(Go) to America!” and shooting paint into their faces from syringes in the city of Nizhny Novgorod.
“It hurts! Why are you doing this?” Tolokonnikova says, with green stains on her face and hands. “You don’t have the right to hurt me. Please don’t do that to anyone anymore.”
Alyokhina said she suffered head injuries and Tolokonnikova had chemical burns. The men wore patriotic symbols - so-called St George ribbons which commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina spent nearly two years in prison for performing a “punk prayer” in a protest against President Vladimir Putin in a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow.
Celebrated in the West as activists who fight for freedom of speech, they are disliked by many people in Russia’s socially conservative provinces, where support for Putin is strong.
They were freed in December, and went to Sochi on the Black Sea coast last month to film an anti-Putin video while the city was hosting the Winter Olympics. They were briefly detained by police in Sochi and beaten with a whip by Cossacks, who were reinforcing security during the Games.
Alyokhina said on Twitter that she and Tolokonnikova were attacked on their way to a local penal colony where she served her prison term. They said after their release from jail that they would fight for prisoners’ rights.
Tolokonnikova blamed local police for the attack. The police said they were investigating the case and declined to comment on the allegations. “They can say it was a provocation by the law enforcement authorities. The law enforcement authorities can say it was a PR-stunt by Pussy Riot. We don’t deal with rumors”, a police spokeswoman said.
(This story was refiled to fix a typo in the fourth paragraph)
Writing by Maria Tsvetkova, Editing by Timothy Heritage