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Finland Pussy Riot arrest denied

Aug. 16, 2012 at 9:15 AM   |   Comments

HELSINKI, Finland, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A spokeswoman for the University of Helsinki Thursday denied Russian reports one of its professors was arrested for staging a Pussy Riot-style protest.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti Wednesday quoted human rights activist Johan Baeckman as saying University of Finland professor Teivo Teivainen had been charged with attempting to hinder religious rites, and other charges, after he and a group of masked girls were prevented from staging a protest rally and performance near Helsinki's Church of the Assumption.

University of Helsinki communications director Kirsti Lehmusto denied the claim, saying Teivainen conducted two political-themed tours Aug. 1 and 5 that included such sites as the Bank of Finland and the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral.

"In front of the cathedral, professor Teivainen discussed the human rights situation in Russia," Lehmusto said in an e-mail. "The cathedral was closed in accordance with its normal timetable, and Teivainen did not try to enter the cathedral.

"The walking tours included several vivifying pieces of performance art, one of which was held in front of the cathedral. In it, two masked women expressed their support for the group Pussy Riot. The performance did not constitute a crime."

Baeckman, identified by RIA Novosti as a University of Helsinki professor, is not associated with the university, Lehmusto said.

Three members of the punk band Pussy Riot are currently on trial in Moscow for hooliganism, stemming from a spontaneous song performed in Moscow's Russian Orthodox cathedral in February that condemned what they claimed was church support for Vladimir Putin's presidential election campaign.

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