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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid