NEWS
02/18/2014 05:17 EST | Updated 04/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Pussy Riot members detained in Sochi

Two members of the punk rock protest group Pussy Riot have been detained by authorities in the Winter Olympics host city of Sochi, just weeks after serving nearly two years in a Russian prison. 

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote on Twitter that she and Maria Alyokhina were stopped, accused of a crime and detained while walking in the city's downtown. She said a third member of the loosely organized group also was detained. About 10 people were detained in all.

The women are being held at a police station in Adler, a suburb of Sochi that is home to the Olympic Park. No charges have been filed.

A lawyer for the Pussy Riot members, Alexander Popkov, says they will be released after questioning, CBC's Nahlah Ayed said Tuesday from Sochi.

"We understand that members of the Pussy Riot have actually been beaten and roughed up as they were rounded up and taken in a car, partly by apparently undercover cops," Ayed said, citing witnesses.

"At the moment of detention, we were not conducting any actions, we were walking in Sochi," Tolokonnikova tweeted while being held by police. "We are in Sochi with the goal of staging a Pussy Riot protest. The song is called Putin Will Teach You To Love The Motherland."

Tolokonnikova also said they had been detained for about 10 hours on Sunday.

Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said the band is being accused of theft at a local hotel.

Verzilov told CBC's Jian Ghomeshi in Sochi said there had been three detentions over the last several days.

"Obviously they are trying to prevent us from having a comfortable time in Sochi by doing all these constant checkups and detentions," he said.

Verzilov said he and the group members were also detained on Monday. "They were very cautious and careful and we realized that these were just mid- and low-level officers carrying out orders from their superiors — probably coming from high-placed officials in Sochi or in Moscow. Officers on the ground did not have very much information."

International flashpoint

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova spent nearly two years in prison but were released in December. They were convicted of hooliganism after staging a protest in Moscow's largest cathedral in opposition to President Vladimir Putin's government.

Pussy Riot has become an international flashpoint for those who contend the Putin government has exceeded its authority in dealing with an array of issues, notably human and gay rights.

The women said their protest performance at the cathedral was aimed at raising concern about the close ties between the church and state.

Russia has put severe limitations on protests in Sochi during the Olympics, ordering that any demonstration must get advance approval and be held only in the neighbourhood of Khosta, an area between Adler and downtown Sochi that is unlikely to be visited by outsiders.

The detention "is certainly not the kind of attention that Putin and his government were looking for as these games come to a close," Ayed said.