Earlier today, Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and others were brutally attacked by Cossacks in Sochi, 20 miles from the Olympic Park, while performing a Pussy Riot action. The Cossacks are part of Sochi’s internal security force, beefed up for the Olympics. Shortly after, the IOC denied violations of the Olympic Charter as it was a “local” Sochi issue and “not a protest.”

The AP footage above shows the group beginning to perform, screaming into unplugged mics and dancing, much like in the raw footage of their famous 40-second protest action inside a Moscow cathedral. Then, two Cossacks sprayed pepper-spray into Nadya’s face. Visibly in pain, covering her eyes, she continues dancing, until another Cossack lunges at her and viciously whips the blinded, unarmed woman in the stomach. As she retreats, he continues whipping her, then others, then a journalist. Other Cossacks advance and begin ripping the balaclavas off Pussy Riot performers’ heads, dragging them by the hair, punching them, dousing them in pepper-spray, throwing them to the ground and kicking them in the back.

What are “Cossacks”? I had no idea they were still operational. The Washington Post explains:

The Cossacks, descended from czarist-era horsemen who patrolled the borders of the Russian empire, are remembered historically for leading pogroms against Jews. Today they are socially conservative and ardent supporters of the Russian Orthodox Church. Recently, they have been revived as a sort of volunteer citizen patrol, and about 800 of them have supplemented the police providing security for the Winter Games here. On patrol, they often wear military-style jackets and high lambskin hats.

So, Sochi’s government essentially hired Christian extremist as their own private police force?

Though the sheer brutality of the attack is shocking, the fact that it happened isn’t. Since arriving in Sochi on Sunday with plans to perform and film their latest protest music video performance  “Putin Will Teach You How to Love the Motherland,” Masha, Nadya and their activists friends were constantly followed. “They track our every move and look for any excuse to detain us,” Nadya said.

After the attack, the police met Pussy Riot at the entrance of the hospital. Nadya covered in bruises and losing vision, tweeted that she said, “We were beaten today. We need medical assistance.” The cops replied, “Well, it’s not like anyone KILLED you.” Nadya’s husband Petr Verzilov was also seeking medical help after being pepper-sprayed directly in the eyes. A male Pussy Riot performer that joined five women was photographed shoved face-down into the ground and later, bleeding from his face. Masha tweeted a photo of Nadya from the hospital.

At a press conference, the Olympic International Committee’s Mark Adams spoke about the attack, stuttering, “I believe… I understand you have to speak to the local authorities… But I understand what happened wasn’t in the context of any protest against the games far as I understand.”

This statement is simply not true. Nadya has tweeted the group’s anti-Olympics protest intentions — that they were here to perform a protest song about “the corruption of the Olympics, ecologist Vitinko and the crushing of freedoms in Russia” – and this information has been made public by the media, not to mention that they were beaten performing directly in front of “Sochi 2014″ billboard.

Yesterday, they were grabbed off the street, shoved into vans, detained for hours without questioning over so-called “hotel theft” and roughed up by the Sochi police. They were released and have been filming their video around Sochi since Tuesday morning. They were even spotted filming with an Olympic mascot and rings insignia. Nadya tweeted the lyrics of the song: “Putin will teach you how to love your motherland. Putin will teach you how to love. This is what the Olympics do.”

UPDATE: Pussy Riot’s “Putin Will Teach You How to Love the Motherland” here.

(Photos: Morry Gash, @GogolsWives)