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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Russian Riot Grrrls Beaten but Not Arrested in Sochi

A copy of video first posted on YouTube by the state-owned news organization Russia Today showing Pussy Riot activists being beaten by Cossacks in Sochi on Wednesday.

There were signs of confusion in the official response to a new performance by the Russian protest band Pussy Riot on Wednesday in Sochi, as the activists were first set upon by Cossack militiamen and beaten with whips and pepper spray, but then allowed to retrieve their guitar from a trash can and leave without being arrested.

The authorities were perhaps trying to avoid the mistake they made one day earlier, when the two leading members of the punk group, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were bundled into a police van and drew the attention of the world to their plight by live-tweeting their brief detention.

A photograph posted on Twitter later by Semyon Simonov, a local activist with the nonprofit organization Memorial, showed that the women, in masks, as earlier, restaged their performance elsewhere, under the Olympic rings outside Sochi’s city hall.

According to The Associated Press, police officers watched the second performance but did not intervene as Ms. Tolokonnikova and Ms. Alyokhina, joined by two other masked women, danced and sang the title of their new song, “Putin Will Teach You How to Love the Motherland!” At one point, they even posed for photos with an Olympic mascot.

Even so, the initial beating of the women in front of journalists ensured that the authorities once again helped the activists to dramatize the Russian state’s intolerance of dissent in images perfectly suited to sharing on social networks, broadcast on satellite news bulletins and perhaps even inclusion in the group’s next music video.

There seemed to be confusion, too, in how the incident was reported by a state-owned news organization, Russia Today, which exists to put the Kremlin’s spin on events for an international audience. Russia Today’s English-language web staff initially drew attention to the disrupted stunt on Twitter and posted video on YouTube of what it called, in the Internet’s mocking vernacular, a “performance fail.” A short time later, however, the news organization removed the video from its YouTube channel and deleted the tweet promoting it (although not before copies of both were made by journalists).

A screenshot of a tweet deleted on Wednesday from the official Twitter account of Russia Today, a news organization owned by the Russian government. A screenshot of a tweet deleted on Wednesday from the official Twitter account of Russia Today, a news organization owned by the Russian government.

Follow Robert Mackey on Twitter @robertmackey.

Live Video From Kiev and Images of Violence in Other Ukrainian Cities

The BBC also broadcast video of soldiers surrendering to protesters outside a burning barracks in the western city of Lviv.

Video of Ukrainian soldiers surrendering to protesters in Lviv.

Ukraine’s Channel 5 posted video of what the local government in Odessa described as a clash among citizens on Wednesday, as a phalanx of pro-government activists â€" armed with baseball bats, wearing helmets and “Stop Maidan” stickers, in reference to the pro-Europe protest movement known as Euro Maidan â€" attacked protesters and journalists.

Video of protesgters in Odessa being attacked by government supporters armed with baseball bats.