Back in The (Former) USSR

 Back in The (Former) USSRYoko Ono showed up in stylish and stylized basement of the Ace Hotel this morning to give an award the LennonOno grant for Peace to Pussy Riot, the imprisoned Russian punk band.

“I thank Pussy Riot for standing firmly for freedom of expression and making all women proud,” said Ms. Ono, enunciating the band’s name in her signature clipped tone. The grant is awarded every two years as a tribute Ms. Ono’s late husband, John Lennon.

It was hard to see Ms. Ono under her brimmed white hat–lowered diagonally over one eye–and sunglasses. The ceremony coincided with International Day of Peace, which perhaps accounted for Ms. Ono’s peace sign-patterned scarf.

Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of band member Nadia Tolokonnikova, accepted on the band’s behalf, since the three band members are currently being held in a temporary holding center in Moscow as they await an appeal. They were sentenced to two years in prison in August after calling for an end to the presidency Vladimir Putin during an unsanctioned concert inside Moscow’s main cathedral.

“They are located in separate cells and kept in special wing of the prison. They are monitored very heavily and video-taped 24/7 and basically treated like they are very dangerous criminals,” said Mr. Verzilov when asked about their band’s current status.

Amnesty International has declared the band members official “Prisoners of Conscience,” which means the human rights organization is mobilizing politically, organizing marches and otherwise trying to put pressure on the Russian Government to secure their release. Mr. Verzilov, as a representative for the band, met with senators and congressmen in Washington, D.C. yesterday in a bid to increase international pressure.

Gera, Ms. Tolokonnikova and Mr. Verzilov’s precocious four-year-old daughter, hammed it up for the cameras as Ms. Ono and Mr. Verzilov took turns speaking. Ms. Ono handed the puzzle-shaped award, which was made of frosted glass, to the blond four-year-old. At the end of the exchange, Gera grabbed the microphone and said “Thank You.”

“It is a gigantic honor for all of us and for the girls in prison. Yoko has shown her support to politically centered important issues since the 70s and all of us live with images of Yoko and John Lennon here in New York supporting the anti-Vietnam cause,” Mr. Verzilov said. “It’s incredible to see her after all these years bring attention to Pussy Riot in prison.”