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Members of Pussy Riot released in Sochi

By Nick Paton Walsh and Tom Watkins, CNN
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police say there is "no claim" against detained band members
  • Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were meeting journalists
  • Police detained them, three other band members, activists and journalists
  • They were in Sochi to record an anti-Putin political protest song

Sochi, Russia (CNN) -- Two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot were detained briefly Tuesday in central Sochi, after apparently being considered suspects in a theft at their hotel, and then released.

"A survey in connection with the theft at the Hotel Adler is completed, there is no claim against those questioned," police said in a prepared statement.

Earlier in the day, band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were meeting with journalists when police detained them, according to Tolokonnikova's husband, Petr Verzilov. Russian media corroborated the report.

"They were put to the floor and beaten and physical force was used to them when they refused to be questioned without the presence of their lawyer, who was on his way to the police department," Verzilov told reporters.

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"Unbelievable lawlessness, even we are amazed," tweeted Tolokonnikova. "Beat on the floor of the department, in the Olympic capital!"

Invoking the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin, she added, "They dragged me on the floor in the hall of the department, hands tied behind back and thrown to the floor. Putin will teach you to love the motherland!"

She said they would file a complaint with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

The two women had been walking down a street accompanied by the journalists, three other members of Pussy Riot who use pseudonyms, and two local activists, when a group of about 10 plainclothes police approached them and asked for their identification, said "Tank," one of the anonymous bandmates.

The police said they suspected Tolokonnikova may have had something to do with a theft in the hotel where the band members were staying, Tank said.

The officers then took away the band members, activists and journalists for questioning.

Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Tank tweeted the news about their detention from their cell phones, with Tolokonnikova posting photos of what she said was the vehicle that was taking her to a police station.

In a separate tweet, Alyokhina said they had been forced into a police van after being stopped near the Church of Mikhail the Archangel and accused of committing a crime.

Tank called CNN from the police station, complaining about having to wait there with no information from police.

They were not put in handcuffs, she said.

Recently free

The band members were in Sochi to protest what they said was the lack of freedom of speech and to record a song in English critical of Putin and called "Putin will teach you to love the homeland."

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had been imprisoned for nearly two years after being convicted of "hooliganism" and inciting religious hatred for performing a punk song slamming Putin in a Moscow cathedral and then posting a video of it online.

Since their release, just before the Olympic Games began, they have spoken to journalists about their time behind bars, describing the conditions as squalid and their treatment by guards as demeaning and inhumane.

A third member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released in 2012.

This month, other band members said Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were no longer part of the group, which Verzilov said Tuesday was false.

READ: U.S. and Russian diplomats spar over Pussy Riot

READ: Amanpour blog: Pussy Riot tells Amanpour: 'We are free people, and free people feel no fear'

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reported from Sochi, and Tom Watkins and Ben Brumfield wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Ivan Watson, Carol Jordan and Alla Eshchenko also contributed to this report.

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