Pussy Riot members whipped by Cossacks at Sochi Olympics [video]

Members of the Pussy Riot punk group say they were whipped by Cossacks who are helping to patrol Sochi during the Winter Olympic Games.

Group members told reporters that the incident took place as they tried to perform a song Wednesday in front of a sign advertising the Games.

Video posted on YouTube appeared to show members of a Cossack militia and other security officials moving in as the group put on brightly colored ski masks and pulled out a guitar and microphone.

In the video, militia members yank off the masks and throw some group members to the ground. One militia member appears to use pepper spray against a group member, and another whips several of them.

Police arrived on the scene and questioned witnesses but made no arrests, the Associated Press reported.

Regional Gov. Alexander Tkachev promised a “thorough probe” into the incident. He said the views of Pussy Riot “are not supported by the majority of people in the region” but stressed the importance of abiding by the law, AP said, quoting comments carried on Russia’s Interfax news service.

The incident happened the day after Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and three other Pussy Riot members complained that they were detained, roughed up and held for hours at a local police station -- one of at least two times that they have been held since arriving Sunday at the site of the Winter Olympics.

The Sochi Police Department told the Itar-Tass news agency that the women were questioned about a theft at the hotel where they were staying.

Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and a third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, gained international attention in 2012 when they entered Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow and performed what they called a punk prayer, begging the Virgin Mary to drive away President Vladimir Putin.

All three did prison time on charges of hooliganism inspired by religious hatred.

alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

Twitter: @alexzavis

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