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Culture

Russia Labels Pussy Riot Member, Others as “Foreign Agents”

December 31, 2021

MOSCOW — Russian authorities on Thursday designated a member of the Pussy Riot punk group, a satirist and an art collector as “foreign agents,” part of efforts to stifle dissent.

The Justice Ministry applied the label to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a Pussy Riot member who became widely known for taking part in a 2012 protest inside Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral after which she spent nearly two years in prison.

Journalist and satirist Viktor Shenderovich and art collector Marat Gelman were also handed the label along with several other people.

The “foreign agent” label implies additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations that can discredit recipients. Russian authorities have applied the designation to scores of media outlets, civil society groups and individuals, ratcheting up pressure on those who are critical of the Kremlin.

Those designated as “foreign agents” are required to add a lengthy statement to news reports, social media posts and other materials specifying that the content was created by a “foreign agent.”

Earlier this week, Russia’s court on Tuesday shut the country’s oldest and most prominent human rights group, Memorial, citing its failure to identify itself as a “foreign agent.”

Tolokonnikova tweeted that she wouldn’t abide by the requirement to mark her posts with the “foreign agent” designation. She said she would challenge the authorities’ decision in court, concluding: “Russia will be free.”

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