Protesters Detained In Moscow

MOSCOW — Sixteen people were detained at a rally in Moscow, where protesters were demanding equal rights for women.

The rally, which had a permit from the authorities, was held in Moscow’s central Novopushkinsky Park on March 8 and was attended by dozens of feminist activists and members of the opposition Yabloko party.

Police intervened and began arresting people after a group whose members identified themselves as Russian Orthodox Christian activists confronted and scuffled with the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, dozens of activists staged a series of pickets in Moscow calling for the release of Pussy Riot. Five supporters were reportedly detained by police.

Outside the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s prison service, protestersĀ held placards calling for the release of two jailed members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. Both women are serving two-year prison sentences after being convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, was among those at the demonstration.

“March 8, as Nadya [Tolokonnikova] said in her message to me today, is not just Women’s Day but it is also the day of women’s liberation,” Verzilov said. “It is indeed very important, because Nadya and Masha [Alyokhina’s] situation shows that women’s rights still need to be fought for.”

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, along with a third member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested in February 2012 after staging a protest performance against President Vladimir Putin inside Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Samutsevich, who received a suspended sentence, attended the demonstration as well. She held a giant placard reading “Freedom for Pussy Riot.”

“It’s an act of support for Nadya and Masha and, of course, [March 8] is a day of solidarity in the fight for women’s rights,” Samutsevich said.

Many of the activists adorned their placards with pictures of flowers to honor International Women’s Day, a Soviet-era festival that is still a national holiday in Russia and celebrated with enthusiasm.

The protest came after the 23-year-old Tolokonnikova asked a regional court for her release on parole on several grounds — including the fact that she has a 5-year-old daughter.

With additional reporting by AFP and Reuters

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