Russia Banned Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina From Traveling & This Is How She Resisted

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

A member of Russia's famous anti-Putin punk rock group has a new book out, but the government apparently doesn't want her trekking around the world to promote it. Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina secretly left Russia and traveled to Edinburgh this week after the state security agency (FSB) stopped her at the border and told her she was banned her from traveling. Then she brushed off the entire event on Twitter like it was no big deal.

"FSB said that I was prevented from leaving the country," she tweeted on Wednesday (in Russian), along with a picture of her calmly smiling. One day later, the Pussy Riot account announced, "Despite the official ban to leave Russia, Masha Alyokhina has found a way to escape, and she is flying to Edinburgh right now!" The tweet also promoted her appearances in Edinburgh.

According to The Guardian, Alyokhina made her escape by driving over 600 miles through Belarus and crossing the border there into Lithuania, which is part of the European Union. From there she was able to easily get on a flight to the United Kingdom.

"It was nothing extraordinary," she told The Guardian.

In Scotland, Alyokhina will be speaking about her new memoir, Riot Days, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and performing a music and political theater piece based on the book at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Riot Days came out last September and recounts her experiences in Russia's prison system. Alyokhina was one of the two members of Pussy Riot who were jailed for nearly two years after performing a song at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012 that protested the Orthodox Church's support of President Vladimir Putin.

Alyokhina has said that her time in prison included "endless humiliations" that included involuntary gynecological exams. "I decided to become a human rights activist when I realized how easy it was for officials to make a decision and force women to be examined in the most intimate parts of their bodies," she said after her release. "Russian officials should not stay unpunished, they cannot have this kind of absolute power over us."

FSB told Alyokhina that her recent protest activity was the reason for her travel restriction. In April, she and a few dozen other activists protested Russia's ban on Telegram, a messaging app, outside FSB's headquarters in Moscow. The protesters tossed paper airplanes (Telegram's logo) at the building, and Alyokhina held up a banner reading, "Happy Birthday, executioners," according to the Russian media outlet Zona.media.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Alyokhina was assigned community service hours as punishment, but she evaded them. On Wednesday, an airport employee told her that was the reason FSB wouldn't allow her to exit the country.

"Pussy Riot founder Maria refused to be captive and silenced," Pussy Riot said in a statement to The Guardian on Thursday. "She was absolutely determined to perform the show and will be there in person to join her band mates to share her story."

Alyokhina appears set to make her promotional appearances in Edinburgh this week. Her musical performance based on Riot Days "merges punk, electronica, theatre, documentary footage and protest," according to the event's website, and will take place between Aug. 11 and Aug. 19.