PHOTO: Russian snowboarder may be Olympic Games' first protester

The Olympic opening ceremonies haven’t even taken place, but it appears that one snowboarder has already made a public protest against Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. 

Russian snowboarder Alexey Sobolev took part in Thursday’s slopestyle qualifying and while waiting for his scores, he stood with his board out facing the television cameras. The design on his board featured a knife-wielding woman wearing a ski mask – the same outfit worn by the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot.

Two members of the band were released from prison in late December after they were jailed following a 2012 performance in Moscow that was critical of Vladimir Putin. Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were released early from a two-year prison sentence, charging the band with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

When asked by Russian media if the board was a nod to the band, Sobolev told R-Sport, “Anything is possible.”

“I wasn’t the person who designed the board,” he added. 

The Olympic Games have only increased the scrutiny on social rights concerns in Russia, and this may well be the first of dozens of public protests. 

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