France gives asylum to Ukrainian topless feminist activist

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 08, 2013 1:50 PM

PARIS (Reuters) - France has granted asylum to a feminist activist who hacked down a Christian cross last year in Kiev with a chainsaw, the Ukrainian woman said on Monday.

Inna Shevchenko sought asylum last February after receiving threats over the act in August 2012 - during which she was topless - which was meant as a protest against the prosecution of the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot.

Shevchenko destroyed a four-meter high (13-ft) wooden cross bearing the figure of Christ, as a Russian court prepared to rule on three Pussy Riot members for performing a political "punk prayer" at the altar of Moscow's main cathedral.

She told Reuters that the French government had recognized her as a political refugee because she faced criminal charges in Ukraine. The agency that decides on asylum requests could not be reached for confirmation.

It is the first time that a member of Femen, a group that originated in Ukraine and often stages bare-breasted protests, has been granted refugee status. Shevchenko said the decision effectively made France the main headquarters of Femen.

"It was a step to develop Femen from a national movement to a global one," she said, adding that the group planned to open "revolutionary schools" in France to train women protesters.

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Femen has staged protests across Europe, mainly against Russia's detention of Pussy Riot last year. In France, they held counter-demonstrations at protests against gay marriage.

Tunisia jailed one German and two French members of the group after they staged a topless protest there in May. They have since been released.

(Reporting by Pauline Mevel; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)