A judge sentenced three members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot to two years jail on Friday for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin in a church, an act the judge called “blasphemous.”
Judge Marina Syrova found the women guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, describing them as blasphemers who had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers by storming the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral in February to belt out a song deriding Putin.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, stood watching in handcuffs in a glass courtroom cage.
The women say they were protesting against Putin’s close ties with the church when they burst onto the altar in Moscow’s golden domed Christ the Saviour Cathedral wearing bright ski masks, tights and short skirts. State prosecutors had requested a three-year jail term.
“Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and Alyokhina committed an act of hooliganism, a gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society,” the judge said.
“The girls’ actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church’s rules.”
The microphone was hot, and this time, President Barack Obama was happily aware that he was being recorded.
During the opening of a speech he gave to news editors in Washington, Obama took a light jab at the media for reporting sideline discussions he had with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul that were, unbeknownst to the pair, picked up by press microphones.
“It is a pleasure to speak to all of you — and to have a microphone that I can see,” Obama said to laughter from the audience of news executives.
“Feel free to transmit any of this to Vladimir if you see him.”
International monitors said Russia’s presidential election was clearly skewed to favour Vladimir Putin, a verdict that could spur protesters planning to take to the streets to challenge his right to rule.
Putin, who secured almost 64 percent of votes on Sunday, portrayed his emphatic victory for a third term as president as a strong mandate to deal with the biggest anti-Kremlin protests since he rose to power in 2000.
But hours before protests were planned to start in central Moscow, vote monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe echoed his opponents’ complaints that the election was slanted against them.
Read more: Russian election criticism may spur protests