Pussy Riot bandmember comes out of hiding to protest Putin

Pussy Riot

Watch “60 Minutes” on CBS 6 Sunday at 7 p.m.

(CBS News) — Russia’s punk protest band Pussy Riot still exists and still wants President Vladimir Putin to step down.

That’s the message delivered by one member of the band, who participated in the anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow’s largest cathedral last year, which made the group a worldwide cause celebre.

“Kot,” as she calls herself to protect her identity, speaks to Lesley Stahl in her first television interview “60 Minutes” Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBS 6.

Their videos have been banned, two members are in prison and the rest, especially Kot, have been avoiding the authorities since she and four other band mates took to the altar of the cathedral last February.

Lip-synching a “punk prayer” they wrote, they beseeched the Virgin Mary to drive Putin out of power. Shortly after, after an edited clip of their 51-second performance went viral on YouTube, three of the protesters were arrested; Kot and another escaped.

Wearing the band’s trademark balaclava over her face, Kot took Stahl to an underground location where she says the band comes together periodically. She believes the government will probably leave her alone at this point, as long as she and the band lie low, but she knows giving an interview could change that.

“I’m a little worried. It’s a feeling similar to what I had before the performances we did,” she tells Stahl. Still, she wants the interview to be seen as a form of protest: “I’m here to say you shouldn’t give up. What happened to us is unacceptable.” Watch a clip.

Kot says very few know she was at the church that day, but her parents do.

“They’re not really happy about it. My dad, he’s religious, he thought that what we did was sort of an anti-Christ sort of thing,” Kot says.

The band picked the site because the head of the Russian Orthodox Church had spoken positively about Putin, as the latter was campaigning to be re-elected as president last year.

At the church, the girls called Putin a rotten leader, and accused him of jailing protestors and curtailing freedoms.

Pussy Riot had staged several other protests, most famously in Red Square, where they shouted “Putin peed in his pants” because – they sang – he was afraid of the large demonstrations that took place in Russia at the time.

Another member of the band, Katya Samutsevich, an engineer, says the vulgarity has a purpose.

“We’ve chosen the language of punk… it’s intentionally dumbed-down,” she explains. “We’ve chosen this specific kind of language to attract attention.”

Samutsevich was also in the church for the protest though she was stopped before dancing on the altar; so while she was convicted, she was released after seven months in detention.

She used her “60 Minutes” appearance to attack Putin as well.

“We want the government to leave power because we consider it illegitimate, but we are advocating for a peaceful overthrow,” she tells Stahl.

She says that during the trial, she never considered asking for the mercy of the court.

“It’s strange when you are innocent. Are you supposed to ask for forgiveness from the judge who’s ready to put you away for several years?” she asks Stahl.

Two other members of Pussy Riot who participated in the church protest, Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina – both young mothers – are serving two-year sentences in harsh Russian prisons.

Russian chess-master Garry Kasparov is a supporter of the band. He’s a longtime opposition leader, and he was arrested in protests outside the courtroom after the women’s verdict was read.

He tells Stahl, “Any attack on Putin is now a crime. Russia is now…a modern dictatorship.”

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