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Monday, August 27, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.

Pussy Riot: 2 band members flee Russia to avoid arrest

By ANDREW E. KRAMER
The New York Times

MOSCOW — Two members of the punk collective Pussy Riot who had avoided being arrested for their anti-Kremlin demonstrations have fled Russia, the band announced in an online posting on Sunday.

The band's Twitter feed did not say where the two women had fled, or whether they had received political asylum after the conviction and jailing of three of their bandmates this month drew condemnation from many foreign governments and celebrities.

The band, a political performance-art collective, sprang into prominence last winter during street protests in Moscow by pressing the boundaries of what appeared to be a new permissiveness in public political expression. Their global profile increased greatly after a videotaped performance inside Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral in which they sang a "punk prayer" asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.

Three band members — Maria Alyokhina, 24, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 — were arrested, and after a trial that made global headlines they were each sentenced Aug. 17 to two years in prison. Afterward, the police announced they were still searching for two others, but did not give their names.

These other two members of the band have never been publicly identified by the police, and they have been referred to only by the nicknames Balaclava and Serafima.

Though the group is said to include at least 12 members, only four were shown performing in the church video.

One of those convicted, Samutsevich, had in fact been detained by guards for trying to enter with an electric guitar before the performance began; she is not in the video.

She was nonetheless convicted of "hooliganism," under a statute that applied to people acting as a group.

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