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Pussy Riot activist says secret escape to Edinburgh festival was worth it

Maria Alyokhina said she was told she had been banned from leaving Russia when after attempting to board a flight to the UK last week (Steve Parsons/PA) Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

One of the original members of protest group Pussy Riot has said it was worth making a secret escape from Russia to take her story to international audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Maria Alyokhina said she was told she had been banned from leaving Russia when after attempting to board a flight to the UK last week.

The ban was over a recent protest at the headquarters of the FSB in Moscow but Ms Alyokhina drove more than 600 miles through Belarus and into Lithuania, where she boarded a flight to reach Edinburgh.

The activist is staging a show at Summerhall to tell the story of her 2012 protest in a Moscow Cathedral that led to a two-year prison sentence.

She told the Press Association: “It has been amazing, I really love Scottish audiences. It’s always a surprise for me because it’s not like a music concert it’s my book on the stage and for me it’s always a surprise that in different countries people accept my story like it’s their story.

“I’m not allowed to leave Russia any more but we found a way and it’s good because people here were waiting for us.

“Something will happen when I go back but I don’t know what. In Russia you cannot tell because it’s unpredictable territory. They don’t want us even to exist so I don’t know what will happen.”

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The Pussy Riot member will take her show to other UK cities after Edinburgh.

She believes there is interest in her views on Russia after the Salisbury poisonings, which the UK Government blames on Moscow.

Ms Alyokhina said: “What happened with the Skripals for me is not a surprise because all political activists in Russia know the methods of Russian secret police. After this situation it became more clear for British people what is the face of the Putin state.

“The situation is much worse than it was six years ago when our action started now cases against political activists are opening almost every week.

“At the World Cup, for people in small cities it was a very unique situation when they have tourists and of course they were happier.

“But any person who tried any activist action in the streets were arrested so no one could criticise the regime.”