Pussy Riot rockers take on 'Russian leader' in new House Of Cards series

The two Pussy Riot punk rockers who served jail time for a stunt slamming President Vladimir Putin - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left) and Maria Alyokhina - have once again struck out at the Russian leader. -- PHOTO: AFP
The two Pussy Riot punk rockers who served jail time for a stunt slamming President Vladimir Putin - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left) and Maria Alyokhina - have once again struck out at the Russian leader. -- PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - The two Pussy Riot punk rockers who served jail time for a stunt slamming President Vladimir Putin have once again struck out at the Russian leader.

The forum for their latest swipe at the Kremlin strongman is season three of the hit US television series House Of Cards, which premieres Friday on Netflix, the women said in an interview released Wednesday.

In the new series, Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina come face-to-face with a fictional Russian leader, Viktor Petrov, at a dinner party thrown by Kevin Spacey's scheming anti-hero Frank Underwood.

The dinner turns into a disaster as the Russian punks, who play themselves along with fellow activist Pyotr Verzilov, launch into an angry tirade against Underwood's guest.

"We stand up, Petya (Verzilov) bangs the table with his fist and says that we would like to propose a toast," Tolokonnikova told the New Times, a Russian opposition magazine.

"And we drink to the Russian president who loves his friends so much that he has sold them half the country, the commander-in-chief who is not afraid of anyone except gays," the 25-year-old said.

Underwood then watches the activists perform a song they wrote for the series, together with Le Tigre, a US feminist band.

Tolokonnikova said that the creator of the series, Beau Willimon, asked them to write a song "directed against this fictional 'Putin'".

"We thought such a move would be too blunt and we wrote for them an international English-language song Don't Cry Genocide, which is devoted to the militarisation of society and to American drones in particular."

The activists said that Russia featured prominently in the third season, chalking it up to the Ukraine conflict.

In February 2012, several members of Pussy Riot stormed the altar of a Moscow church and attempted to sing what they called a "punk prayer" calling on the Virgin Mary to "drive Putin out".

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were jailed for hooliganism and released in late 2013.

'HYBRID BETWEEN YELTSIN AND PUTIN'

Tolokonnikova said that Petrov's character had been modelled on Putin and that Willimon wanted the fictional president and Putin to have the same initials.

The Russian leader is played by Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen who bears a strong resemblance to the president.

For Tolokonnikova, however, Mikkelsen was too tall.

"And his face is too withered. This is an early Putin, before Botox."

The activists said they felt the creators of the US hit drama had failed to grasp the true nature of former KGB agent Putin.

"I think they don't quite understand what a member of the KGB is. In the film, Petrov is more of a little tsar," said Alyokhina, 26.

"He is too jolly for Putin, of course. Actually this is some sort of hybrid between Yeltsin and Putin."

Alyokhina said that Petrov acts way out of character for a Putin-alike: he drinks, sings and kisses Underwood's wife Claire on the lips.

'LEARNING ENGLISH HARD AS HELL'

After their ordeal the Pussy Riot punks shot to global stardom, appearing on stage with Madonna in New York last year and recently releasing a song that takes aim at US police brutality.

The shooting of the scenes involving the Pussy Riot lasted three days and they even had their own trailer.

"Several more days we were present on the film set as honoured guests," said Tolokonnikova.

"It was hard as hell to learn all these English phrases," she added.

Tolokonnikova praised the TV series - which counts Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny among its fans - for showing what politics is all about.

"Of course, Underwood's story is exaggerated but it would be stupid to deny that there are lots of problems in US politics."