A member of the Russian punk-rock protest group Pussy Riot recently held a live Skype interview with students and lecturers.

Falmouth University’s Performance Centre hosted the Q&A event to a packed audience with group member Yekaterina (Katya) Samutsevich, one of the five members of the group who were arrested and imprisoned after performing a ‘punk prayer’ at a Moscow Cathedral in 2012.

The event, which took place on 27 February, was part of the university’s amnesty evenings, run in partnership with Amnesty International to create awareness of performers in political plights across the world.

Author Emily Neu also attended the event to speak about her book Let’s Start A Pussy Riot, created in collaboration with members of the group.

The session began with the audience singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Katya, before a question was asked about what prompted the group’s political protests.

Speaking through an interpreter, Katya replied that the group was established after the Arab Spring of 2011 and “initially influenced by other Russian punk bands and not just by music, but also by art.”

Katya reminded the audience that Pussy Riot were not a political group, but were “trying to perform as artists to make good artistic work,” and while protesting against oppression within Russia. She claimed that artists are oppressed by President Vladimir Putin’s regime and that the group is helping to bring contenscious issues into the public domain.

Speaking on the issue of feminism, Katya said: “There are conflicts between the opposition, artistic circles and politicians […] there are quite a few people who are against feminism, we have had occasions when visitors to feminist exhibitions would come and damage the works of artists.”

Further questions were asked regarding possible oppression by the Russian Orthodox Church and if Pussy Riot supported minority religious groups as a response. “There are major religions in the Russian Federation, including orthodox, Buddhists and Muslims” responded Katya. “They are discriminated against and I am against all kinds of discrimination, especially for Muslims […] when there was a war in Chechnya (the media) described Muslims as terrorists so I am against discrimination.”

Commenting on a question regarding speculation that she declined to go on stage with Madonna at a recent concert, Katya replied that the concert was dedicated to other Pussy Riot members and she was not actually invited.

When asked what the future held for the protest group, Katya was cryptic in her reply: “I can’t tell you what’s in store, it’s for Pussy Riot and we will see what will happen.”

Dee Ferrett, course leader and senior lecturer in Popular Music, said: “It was an absolute honour to converse with Emely Neu and be part of a dialogue with Yekaterina Samutsevich of Pussy Riot.

“Our conversation felt like a timely step towards the kinds of cross-cultural dialogues that are fundamentally vital to future feminisms and to act as activism” she said.

Pussy Riot stage unauthorised, provocative and guerilla performances in unusual public locations, which are edited into music videos and posted on the internet. Five members of the group found international fame after staging a performance inside a Moscow Cathedral in 2012.

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