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Pussy Riot women guilty of hooliganism, will serve two years

Despite an outcry from the international musical community -- and in the face of accusations that the Russian Orthodox Church has its hands deeply in the pockets of President Vladimir Putin’s administration -- Judge Marina Syrova found members of the band Pussy Riot guilty of hooliganism for a protest in February.

According to the Associated Press, they’ll be serving two years in prison [1] for the protest, which included a pantomime of an anti-Putin song outside the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.  Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, two of whom are mothers, all face jail time for "hooliganism" after the protest.  Hooliganism is a reference to behavior that is riotous, bullying or vandalizing. The extent of their supposed “hooliganism” can be seen here. In this clip, their music has not been dubbed over. 

In our previous story about the arrests, we discussed the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, and in particular Patriarch Kirill I, head of the church, on Russian politics. Kirill went as far as calling Putin "a miracle from God." That influence is a frequent theme of Pussy Riot's music.   In response to the arrests, Kirill tried to downplay the connection between the church and state in Russia in an interview with Russian media outlets, according to Reuters. [2]  "The state, the authorities and the Church are autonomous from each other," Kirill said. "We are truly autonomous, we do not interfere in one another's dealings and we cherish this autonomy." [2]

Though Amnesty International (link is to Amnesty's petition for their release) [3] and other groups have expressed concern about the imprisonment, no one in the church has made any appeals for clemency, according to Irish Times writer Jennifer Rankin [4]. Rankin went on to describe church officials claiming the church is "under attack" from "anti-Russian forces." [4]

As for the supposed "attackers," they did nothing to physically harm church property, and weren't even being particularly loud -- but for their part, they're looking at two years in prison.  Two years is less than the maximum sentence, which was seven years, and less than the sentence asked for by the prosecution (three years). Also, with any luck, the attention raised by the case will continue to keep a bright light on the not-so-distant relation between Russia's Orthodox Church and its borderline-dictatorial leader. 

Photo: New Yorker.

[1] Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press http://www.mercurynews.com/ nation-world/ci_21336493/ russian-punk-band-pussy-riot- sentenced-two-years
[2] Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters http://www.reuters.com/ article/2012/08/16/russia- pussyriot-kirill- idUSL6E8JG2F720120816
[3] Amnesty International http://takeaction.amnestyusa. org/siteapps/advocacy/ ActionItem.aspx?c= 6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid= 517749
[4] Jennifer Rankin, Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/ newspaper/world/2012/0816/ 1224322256235.html#. UC0CxJHqpY0.facebook