News / Europe

Punk Rockers' Trial a Gauge of Kremlin Will

Members of punk group Pussy Riot on trial in glass-enclosed courtroom cage, Moscow, July 30, 2012.
Members of punk group Pussy Riot on trial in glass-enclosed courtroom cage, Moscow, July 30, 2012.
James Brooke
MOSCOW — Since returning to the Kremlin as president three months ago, Vladimir Putin has signed a series of new laws curbing freedom of speech and assembly. In a court case on Monday, prosecutors took aim at three young women who they say insulted him personally.  

In a case that highlights Russia’s growing generation gap, the trio of feminist rock musicians whose band goes by the name Pussy Riot pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of hooliganism, stemming from their performance of an anti-Putin prayer in Moscow’s main Orthodox church.

On February 21, dressed in short skirts and wearing brightly colored balaclava hoods, the band performed a one minute "punk prayer," imploring the Virgin Mary to drive Putin away.

Two weeks later, Putin was elected to a third term as president, and today the women's trial is seen as a gauge of the president’s attitude toward dissenters. The women have been in jail for five months, and some people at the courthouse say Putin’s message is already clear.

Alexander Lebedev, a Russian billionaire active in democratic politics, linked the punk rocker case to the expected prosecution of Alexei Navalny, a blogger seen as the opposition’s most charismatic leader.

“I suddenly understood - from, actually, the Navalny case, which is fully fabricated, same as with these girls - there is only politics, nothing else," he said. "Just a kind of copy of the 1960s."

Lebedev predicts the president will continue to crack down on dissidents. Monday’s actions coincide within Putin's signing of a measure that sets criminal penalties for slandering judges and prosecutors.

In court, one of the women, Maria Alyokhina, spoke of a generational gap opening between young Russians and the nation’s political and religious hierarchy.

“As representatives of our generation, we are bewildered by [Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill's] actions and appeals," said Alyokhina's lawyer, Violetta Volkova, reciting her client's statement to the court. "We wanted and we want a dialogue.”

While the patriarch condemned the punk prayer staged at the cathedral as “blasphemous," a Levada Center opinion poll released Monday reported that only 17 percent of Russians interviewed supported the church leadership’s demand for harsh punishment.

Conviction could mean sentences of up to seven years for each of the defendants. A judge has already ruled during an earlier proceeding that the women, two of them mothers of young children, must stay in jail through January.

“[The women] wore clothes contradicting church rules to show their disrespect for the Christian world and the church," said a prosecutor, charging that the women intended to insult Christian believers.

In London, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the Times newspaper that some countries would be harsher than Russia in cases of offense against religion.

But younger Russians seem to be going in a different direction. At a recent protest demonstration in downtown Moscow, the loudest chants were for the punk group's freedom.

With the faces of the three young women becoming household images across Russia, the Kremlin may end up winning in the court of law - and losing in the court of public opinion.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
July 31, 2012 12:51 PM
The world witnesses that absurd “trial”, new charges against other critics & Navalny for penny-pinching sum (against billions $ stolen from the budget) from the past aren’t political but a personal vendetta of Mr. Putin & Co, who made the tool of revenge from the law. The verdicts of the ‘trial’ and the charges against critics & Navalny with 100% probability will be “guilty” because under Mr. Putin in Russia there are no more courts of law but courts of conviction with 99% guilty rulings


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 31, 2012 7:12 AM
That's a measure of Russian diplomacy and democracy. I once watched a chimp protect an antelope from other predators, It looked good until one day the chimp grabbed the innocent, unsuspecting and unprotected animal for its own meal. Vladimir Putin is not running Russia for someone else, he is not protecting Syria and Iran just to have friends: his mission is hidden, but only the sun will reveal all his hidden agenda in due time. The leaders of Russia, China, Syria and Iran are predators, and the subjects - the people - are mere prey. It's only a matter of time to see the man-eaters do their action.


by: Lara
July 31, 2012 2:23 AM
I don't think those who condemn the girls are true believers themselves!


by: Robert George from: Dubai
July 31, 2012 12:17 AM
The Pussy Riots band’s intention has been praiseworthy. But the place they chose to vent their anger and displeasure was wrong. Places of worship should be revered and left out of politics. Although the innuendo attached to their band’s name can be excused, what is disparaging is the way they chose to protest. However, these young women should be left off the hook with a stern warning or a light punishment.


by: Mike
July 30, 2012 4:41 PM
Russia is an authoritarian country. There is no independent judiciary in Russia and everything depends on the Russian Tsar Putin. Therefore, the trial of the girls are not valid. They will be sentenced to long terms in prison just because they sang a song against the Russian Tsar Putin.


by: Wyatt Larew from: Austin TX
July 30, 2012 4:23 PM
So when does the world consider Russia a Communist state again? I don't understand this is the furthest thing from a Democratic Government in the world! Ahh well I guess the US is right behind them but either way Authoritarian leaders can not claim to be a democratic society if this is Democracy The entire world need to Abandon the Democracy principle right now!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid