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Pussy Riot hopes Dutch royals see beyond Sochi opening ceremony

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Two freed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot said Friday they hoped a high-level Dutch delegation to the Sochi Olympics would see beyond the glittering opening ceremony and speak out on human rights.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte have agreed to travel to the Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, despite calls to boycott the event over Moscow's human rights record and with many world leaders declining to attend.

The delegation must form an opinion "not just of the opening ceremony, because the opening ceremony will be all smiles and good news, but about things they see outside the opening ceremony," Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told a press conference in Amsterdam.

"We do hope that members of the delegation to Sochi will make their opinion public," she said, speaking through a translator.

Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, freed last month from a Russian jail, were speaking in the Dutch capital at the invitation of Human Rights Watch.

The Netherlands and Russia had a turbulent 2013 which was supposed to be a year of celebrating centuries of good relations but which turned into a diplomatic nightmare.

Low points included a Dutch police assault on an allegedly drunken Russian diplomat and Russia arresting 30 Greenpeace activists on a Dutch-flagged vessel protesting Arctic oil drilling.

Gay rights activists in April staged a massive protest in Amsterdam against President Vladimir Putin's visit to protest against controversial Russian anti-gay legislation.

The two Russian activist-musicians are to share a stage with US pop icon Madonna in New York on Wednesday at a star-studded concert as part of their campaign against abuses in Russia.

Three members of the band were jailed for 21 months for hooliganism after performing a controversial protest stunt inside Moscow's foremost church, the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February 2012.

One of the three, Yekaterina Samusevich, 31, was released in October 2012 after being given a suspended sentence.

Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alyokhina, 25, were released last month, two months early, under a Kremlin-backed amnesty ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The Games open on February 7.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140131/pussy-riot-hopes-dutch-royals-see-beyond-sochi-opening-ceremony