Inna Shevchenko, topless Femen activist, wins asylum in France

France has granted asylum to a feminist activist who hacked down a Christian cross last year in Kyiv with a chainsaw, the Ukrainian woman said on Monday.

Inna Shevchenko sought asylum last February after receiving threats over the act in August 2012 – during which she was topless – which was meant as a protest against the prosecution of the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot.

Shevchenko destroyed a four-metre high wooden cross bearing the figure of Christ, as a Russian court prepared to rule on three Pussy Riot members for performing a political "punk prayer" at the altar of Moscow's main cathedral.

She told Reuters that the French government had recognised her as a political refugee because she faced criminal charges in Ukraine. The agency that decides on asylum requests could not be reached for confirmation. It is the first time that a member of Femen, a group that originated in Ukraine and often stages topless protests, has been granted refugee status. Shevchenko said the decision effectively made France the main headquarters of Femen, adding that he group planned to open "revolutionary schools" in France to train women protesters.

Femen has staged protests across Europe, mainly against Russia's detention of Pussy Riot last year. In France, they held counter-demonstrations at protests against gay marriage.

Tunisia jailed one German and two French members of the group after they staged a topless protest there in May. They have since been released.

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The mission of the "FEMEN" movement is to create the most favourable conditions for the young women to join up into a social group with the general idea of the mutual support and social responsibility, helping to reveal the talents of each member of the movement.

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