MOSCOW (AP) — A member of the Pussy Riot group was detained by police in Moscow on Friday, even as President Vladimir Putin celebrated the country's version of independence day by praising its democracy and openness.
Putin's comments during a Kremlin ceremony came as he continues to come under criticism abroad for stifling opposition and promoting a culture of truculent patriotism.
The Russia Day holiday also inspired a demonstration by two opposition activists, but police quickly detained the women, including Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of the Pussy Riot group who spent nearly two years in prison for an anti-Putin protest inside a Moscow cathedral in 2012.
The two women were detained while sewing a Russian tricolor flag in a square opposite the Kremlin wearing prison uniforms. Tolokonnikova, who had served time in a prison sewing shop, later posted photographs on Facebook of them completing the flag in a police station. It was unclear how long they would be held.
Russia Day commemorates the 1990 declaration of state sovereignty for Russia, when it was one of 15 republics within the Soviet Union. In the quarter-century since the declaration, Russia "has made a successful breakthrough to democracy and a market economy, but also was able to establish itself as a modern, open and independent country," Putin said.
He presented state awards to seven Russians for achievements in the arts, science and humanitarian affairs.