Entertainment

De Blasio Welcomes Formerly Imprisoned Russian Punk Band Members To City Hall

Amnesty International Concert presented by the CBGB Festival at Barclays Center on February 5, 2014 in New York City.

Amnesty International Concert presented by the CBGB Festival at Barclays Center on February 5, 2014 in New York City.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomed two members of the Russian protest punk band Pussy Riot to City Hall Friday.

Maria “Masha” Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been on a tour of New York, and visited City Hall late Friday afternoon.

De Blasio, his wife Chirlane McCray and the musicians visited for about 30 minutes. A spokeswoman said the mayor commended them for “their bravery and courage.”

The two were released in December after nearly two years in jail.

Along with a third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, they were arrested in 2012 after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral, high-kicking and dancing while singing a “punk prayer” pleading the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a third new term as Russia’s president two weeks later.

They were convicted of hooliganism.

The women have also appeared on the talk show “The Colbert Report” and at an Amnesty International concert at the Barclays Center. While on tour, they have been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and political conditions in their homeland – particularly as the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi.

“We want to see Americans keep their eyes open and not just buy whole what Putin is trying to sell them,” the women said through an interpreter at the Amnesty International Concert.

The pair also said the climate against the LGBT community in their country is getting worse.

“What our government has been doing lately has been inciting hatred toward the LGBT community,” one of the women said.

And while de Blasio commended the Pussy Riot members Friday, one of his predecessors in the Gracie Mansion had the opposite reaction when the women were arrested.

Mayor Ed Koch, who died last year, wrote a commentary defending the punishment against the women in 2012.

“I don’t think it’s awful. If people desecrate a church instead of going outside and saying whatever they want to. They went physically into the church, dancing around the altar, making prayers that were salacious. In my judgment, that requires punishment,” Koch told WCBS 880 reporter Alex Silverman at the time.

You may also be interested in these stories:

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)