Pussy Riot Member: 'What Happened to Us Is Unacceptable'

Punk rockers tell '60 Minutes' they will continue to protest

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A member of Pussy Riot freed on appeal last year says she has no regrets about the "punk-prayer" protest that prompted Russian authorities to arrest her and two bandmates, who are currently serving time in labor camps. 

Yekaterina Samutsevich told 60 Minutes last night that Pussy Riot's February 2012 demonstration against Russian President Vladimir Putin on the altar of Moscow's main cathedral helped bring attention to a repressive political system controlled by leaders unwilling to tolerate dissent.  

Q&A: Pussy Riot's Yekaterina Samutsevich on Their Fight for Freedom

"We want the government to leave power, because we consider it illegitimate," Samutsevich told Lesley Stahl. "But we're advocating for a peaceful overthrow."

Samutsevich said Putin rigged the election that returned him to Russia's presidency last year. "The elections weren't legitimate," she said. "There was vote rigging. There was false counting. It was clear that the president put himself in power."

Since then, she said, "Putin has brought in a new level of repressive government measures in Russia."

Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were convicted last August after a trial that drew criticism from the likes of Madonna, Paul McCartney and other musicians.

Sergei Markov, a political spokesman for Putin, acknowledged that the government was hard-pressed to bring charges against Pussy Riot, finally settling on "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" to make an example of the women and discourage other protestors. Asked whether authorities intervened in favor of a harsher penalty than the women deserved, Markov answered, "Absolutely."

That, Samutsevich said, is why none of the three members of Pussy Riot considered begging for mercy in court. "The whole process was so unfair to us from the beginning," she said. "It's strange when you're innocent. Are you supposed to ask for forgiveness from the judge who's ready to put you away for several years? No, this wasn't even discussed."

Samutsevich and Pussy Riot's drummer, who identified herself only as "Kot," said they're not through protesting. "I'm here to say you shouldn't give up," Kot said. "What happened to us is unacceptable."

"It's a fight, it's an ongoing fight," Samutsevich said. "Just because there was a court case doesn't mean that we're going to stop and shut our mouths. We have a lot of things to say. We're going to continue to work, continue to do what we do."

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