Tom Daley
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Pussy Riot Leader Maria V. Alyokhina Has Escaped Russia

 Maria V. Alyokhina

Maria V. Alyokhina, leader of the Russian activist punk band Pussy Riot, made an escape from her home country that reads like a modern spy thriller.

Disguised as a food delivery worker and leaving her cell phone behind, Alyokhina evaded police attention as she left her friend’s Moscow apartment, the artist told The New York Times.

From there, Alyokhina, 33, caught a ride with a friend who took her to the border of Belarus, from where she eventually made her way into Lithuania. But getting across that second border proved to be a challenge. The first time she attempted to cross it, she was held for hours by Belarusian border guards who eventually sent her back. The second time she was simply turned away. On the third attempt, however, she finally made it across with the help of a friend, Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson. He advocated on Alyokhina’s behalf to an unnamed European country, which ultimately issued her a travel document conveying the status of an E.U. citizen. With that document in hand, Alyokhina was finally granted access across the Lithuanian border.

“A lot of magic happened last week,” she told the Times. “It sounds like a spy novel.”

Alyokhina has been a target of Russian authorities practically since leading Pussy Riot. In 2012, the band staged a protest against Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, which led to Alyokhina being sentenced to two years in prison for the crime of “hooliganism.” Undeterred, she continued to push back against the country’s oppressive system, leading her to be jailed for 15 days on six separate occasions — all meant to tamp down on her political activism.

Despite this frequent harassment, Alyokhina stayed in Russia. That changed for her in April of this year, however, when Putin stepped up the country’s efforts to crack down on criticism of the country's invasion into Ukraine. As a result of her continued outspokenness, Alyokhina was informed that she was being transferred from house arrest to spend 21 days in a penal colony. Her girlfriend, Lucy Shtein, had escaped to Lithuania a month prior—after someone put a sign on their apartment door calling them traitors—so Alyokhina too decided to make her way out of the country.

“I still don’t understand completely what I’ve done,” she told the paper.

Alyokhina hopes to one day be able to return home.

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