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Pussy Riot members attacked by Cossacks while staging protest in Sochi

Members of the punk group Pussy Riot, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in the blue balaclava and Maria Alekhina in the pink balaclava, are attacked by Cossack militia in Sochi, Russia, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. The group had gathered in a downtown Sochi restaurant, about 30km (21miles) from where the Winter Olympics are being held. They ran out of the restaurant wearing brightly colored clothes and ski masks and were set upon by about a dozen Cossacks, who are used by police authorities in Russia to patrol the streets
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Members of the punk group Pussy Riot, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in the blue balaclava and Maria Alekhina in the pink balaclava, are attacked by Cossack militia in Sochi, Russia, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. The group had gathered in a downtown Sochi restaurant, about 30km (21miles) from where the Winter Olympics are being held. They ran out of the restaurant wearing brightly colored clothes and ski masks and were set upon by about a dozen Cossacks, who are used by police authorities in Russia to patrol the streets. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Russian punk-protest group Pussy Riot had pledged for months to seek to disrupt the Sochi Olympics, and has begun carrying through on that promise. But the group's latest attempt at a protest was dismantled almost before it began.

One day after members of the loosely-connected group were questioned in connection with some suspected thefts at a Sochi hotel, Pussy Riot gathered at a restaurant in downtown Sochi, about 20 miles from the Olympic village. The band attempted to begin performing, but was set upon by whip-wielding Cossack militiamen.

The Russian police often use Cossacks as a roving security force, ironic given the long history of strife between Russians and Cossacks. Their tangled relationship dates back centuries, with the two groups being aligned, at odds, and sometimes both at once. Recent years have seen an increase in Cossack pride in Russia, and Cossacks have proudly stepped into an enforcement/security role.

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Maria Alekhina, second left, helps Nadezhda Tolokonnikova get up after they and other members of the punk group …

The entire conflagration lasted about five minutes, according to reports. The Cossacks whipped the members of the group and pulled off their trademark ski masks, and one member of Pussy Riot was observed bleeding from the head. No arrests were made.

Here's video of the run-in. Warning: It's intense.

Pussy Riot has drawn international notice in recent years for its staunch anti-Putin stance. The group embraces progressive issues such as equal rights, an approach that has put them at odds with Russia's ruling establishment. Two members of the group were imprisoned for nearly two years because of their open protests of Russia's policies.

[Video: Pussy Riot taken to police station for questioning]

"If the Olympic Games go smoothly, then the Russian government will win," Pussy Riot member Katya Samutsevich told Yahoo Sports in July. "That is what we want. To be memorable. If we are noticed, so are the abuses we are trying to highlight."

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

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