TODAY   |  April 03, 2014

Pussy Riot member: I want Russia to ‘be free’

Members of the Russian rock band and protest group Pussy Riot, who served almost two years in prison for speaking out against President Vladimir Putin, join TODAY along with journalist Tina Brown to discuss their viewpoints. The women will attend Brown’s “Women in the World Summit” in New York City.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the fifth women off the world summit kicks off today here in new york city , discussing a wide range of issues from a woman's point of view. joining us, the members of pussy riot who spent two years in jail for speaking out against vladimir putin .

>> they were defiant. it was a trial many called unfair, part of a group called pussy riot, singing out anonymously about a system they found impressive. it was this performance that got them arrested in 2012 . they stormed the moscow cathedral. it infuriated authorities. the trial brought international condemnations from stars like madonna.

>> i'm against censorship. i hope they don't have to serve seven years in jail. that would be a tragedy.

>> just 50 days before russia 's hosting of the olympic games they were released, which some saw as a gesture to welcome those coming for the olympics.

>> the group joins us now along with a translator. good morning to all of you. your protest in russia made you famous, not only in russia but it seems along the world . what do you want the world to hear you sing now?

>> translator: the first thing i want to say is the idea that russia would be free. this idea of a free russia only became stronger the two years we were in jail. if our government thought they were going to just break us down by jailing us, it didn't work out at all.

>> i know that you both want to speak out about the conditions in the russian penal system . you feel as if you were submitted to a form of slave labor . do you think you were treated differently because of the notoriety of your case?

>> translator: definitely. if influenced our situation a great deal. if it wouldn't be for the people who really were saying everything they could about us to support us, things would be completely different and it might have been that we wouldn't be healthy and sane and alive.

>> tina, it seems to me, in this country at least, they've done a lot in russia , spoken out on a lot of subjects in russia but in this country it seems the biggest item on their resum? is that they pissed off vladimir putin and that doesn't seem that hard to do. what, in your opinion, made them two people you wanted to bring here and share their views. why are they game changers?

>> because the women in the world summit brings together women who have broken the mold, who acted for change, have been revolutionaries, really spoken out and put themselves on the front line of the world 's better betterment. these two women have done that. they spent two years in a depressing, cold and austere prison. they paid a heavy price for their resistance to putin . what they say is what's being shown now that putin is a thug hereby is a bully and they paid a price.

>> they're both moms. there are critics in russia who say they placed their cause, if you will, ahead of the needs of their family. as someone who deals with women in terms of balance, careers, family, what do you think about that?

>> i think actresses make tree tremendous sacrifices in their lives. they are supported by wonderful families who supported them. but they paid a very heavy price.

>> can you ask them what their daily lives are like today? are they followed? are they being singled out?

>> translator: in terms of being followed, we go through much more than we were before. for example, if we were going to where the people are getting jailed and we want to get in, the people of the government, they attack us and they spray us so we have like a head concussion, we have a burning of the eyes. that's what we suffer.

>> reporter: they were released some 50 days before what people called putin 's olympics. a lot of people thought he was showing a softer side to the world but since the olympic games , there's come the crackdown, the and enexation of crimea. do they feel president putin was trying to fool the world ?

>> translator: the regime became like more liberal. basically, he's simply trying to smart over the whole world without the world 's participation, those actions would not be possible.

>> thank you all very much. here's savannah.

>> matt, thank you so much.