2 members of punk band Pussy Riot held in Sochi

Associated Press

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — A member of the punk group Pussy Riot said she and one her bandmates were detained Tuesday while walking in downtown Sochi, the host city of the Winter Olympics.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote on Twitter that she and Maria Alekhina were stopped and accused of a crime. She said a third member of the loosely organized group also was detained. Local activist Seymon Simonov said the two Pussy Riot members were accused of theft and nine people were held in all.

Tolokonnikova said authorities used "force" during the detention near the ferry terminal area where booths celebrating the Olympics have been set up. The area is about 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of the seaside Olympic venues.

"At the moment of detention, we were not conducting any actions, we were walking in Sochi," Tolokonnikova wrote on Twitter while being held by police. "We are in Sochi with the goal of staging a Pussy Riot protest. The song is called 'Putin will teach you to love the motherland.'"

Tolokonnikova also said they had been detained for about 10 hours on Sunday.

The women were being held Tuesday at a police station in Adler, a suburb of Sochi that is home to the Olympic Park. No charges have been filed.

Alekhina and Tolokonnikova spent nearly two years in prison but were released in December. They were convicted of hooliganism after staging a protest in Moscow's largest cathedral in opposition to President Vladimir Putin's government.

Pussy Riot has become an international flashpoint for those who contend the Putin government has exceeded its authority in dealing with an array of issues, notably human and gay rights.

Alekhina and Tolokonnikova recently visited the U.S. and Germany to take part in an Amnesty International concert.

The women said their protest performance at the cathedral was aimed at raising concern about the close ties between the church and state.

Russia has put severe limitations on protests in Sochi during the Olympics, ordering that any demonstration must get advance approval and be held only in the neighborhood of Khosta, an area between Adler and downtown Sochi that is unlikely to be visited by outsiders.

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Associated Press writer Jim Heintz contributed to this report.

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