Amid global protests, this past weekend, Russian punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in a labour camp for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin.
Judge Marina Syrova found the women guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, describing them as blasphemers who had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers.
The group performed a ‘Punk Prayer’ on the altar at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February, in which they asked the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Putin.
The Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich say the protest was meant to criticise close ties between Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader has likened Putin’s 12 years in power to a “miracle of God”.
This past weekend marked 21 years since the defeat of the coup which led to the 1991 Soviet collapse, with many critics saying the arrests had turned the clock back on the path to Russian democracy. Outside Russia, the band’s supporters have successfully called on the support of high-profile artists including Paul McCartney and Madonna to make public appeals.
Leaders in the US and the EU have publicly described the ruling as “disproportionate”, and following the sentencing there were events held in more than 50 cities worldwide, aimed at putting pressure on the Russian government.
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