Pussy Riot Activists Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Singing Stupid Song in ChurchS

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Maria Alyokhina, three members of the punk activist collective Pussy Riot, were sentenced to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism today. The women had staged a brief performance of an anti-Putin "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral; their subsequent arrest and drawn-out imprisonment (which saw the women, two of whom are mothers of young children, locked up awaiting trial for some seven months and denied adequate food or rest) seemed to represent an attempt by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's autocratic ruling party to ally itself with the once-banned Russian Orthodox Church — which had itself been a locus of resistance under the old Soviet regime.

The Pussy Riot case drew international attention thanks in part to statements and support from pop stars like Madonna and Björk. The reading of the verdict today was a drawn-out affair, and the judge paraded victims of the group's stunt — people who claimed they'd been "morally harmed" by the site of the balaclava-clad women yelling on the church altar — before handing down the sentence. Outside, hundreds gathered to protest, and opposition leader and former chess champion Garry Kasparov was arrested along with several others. "Katya, Masha and I are in jail but I don't consider that we've been defeated," Tolokonnikova said in her closing statement last week. "Just as the dissidents weren't defeated. When they disappeared into psychiatric hospitals and prisons, they passed judgement on the country. The era's art of creating an image knew no winners or losers."

[NYT]