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Two Women Detained for Pussy Riot Action in Moscow Cathedral, One Year After 'Punk-Prayer'

21/02/2013 18:58 GMT | Updated 23/04/2013 10:12 BST

Two balaclavered women have been detained for staging an action in support of Pussy Riot in Moscow's Church of Christ the Saviour, exactly on year after the punk group held their "punk-prayer" in the cathedral.

The women have been named as Irina Karatsuba and Elena Volkova, reportedly professors at Moscow State University, where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (one of the band members currently jailed) was a student. The women apparently entered the Church wearing colourful-balaclavas (Pussy Riot's trademark) and laid flowers on the altar where the punk band high-kicked 12 months ago.

Speaking to the Russian News Service, the women said "We went to the Christ the Savior cathedral to pray. To pray to Mary. We put on masks, laid down flowers. They unmasked us at once and grabbed us. My colleague almost had her nose torn off. That's the story," Karatsuba told the Russian News Service radio via telephone.

That both women are apparently professors at MSU is interesting given statements made by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in an interview with Novaya Gazeta last month, that she already had a number of projects lined-up with professors at the university. She said then, that she hoped the authorities would permit her to return to her studies at MSU once she was released.

A recording of Karutsoba talking about Pussy Riot has already appeared on the internet in June 2012. In it, she describes their imprisonment as "immoral" and questions the Church's attitude towards the case.

It is a year to the day since the the "punk-prayer", which led to the arrest and eventual conviction of Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samustevich for hooliganism. The three women were sentenced to two years hard labour in remote prison camps.

Samutsevich told me last week that the anniversary was "not a particularly happy one" for the group because two of its members were still imprisoned. The activist, who was freed in October with a suspended sentence, told me that Pussy Riot have changed their tactics.

"The group continues to exist and to fight for its rights. But now we have to do this with legal and not artistic means. It's the only way we can continue to move forward as a group."