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Punk vs Putin: Meet the women of Pussy Riot fighting government repression

The women of Pussy Riot are changing the image of girl power. The feminist punk group, known for wearing colorful masks, is now a worldwide symbol of protest.

Pussy Riot uses performance art and songs to criticize President Vladimir Putin, raising their voices on issues such as LGBTQ rights, free speech and government oppression.

MORE: How to join punk rock protest group Pussy Riot

In 2012 they made worldwide headlines for their “punk prayer” inside a Moscow cathedral, with lyrics asking the Virgin Mary to chase Putin away.

Three members of the group – including Nadya Tolokonnikova, 25, and Masha Alekhina, 26, – were arrested and imprisoned. The women were denied bail and faced up to seven years in prison, causing international outcry for their release.

They were released in December 2013, less than two months before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Since then, Nadya and Masha have taken off their masks for good and have become the faces of youth protest in their country and around the world, even risking arrest again.

They have called on U.S. lawmakers to impose stricter sanctions on Russia for human rights abuses and have even started their own news service to discuss justice and prison issues.

And despite their international fame now, Nadya and Masha say their goal is to see real reform in their home country.

Credit: Joanna Suarez and Carlos Navarrete

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