Pussy Riot: The Russian Reaction
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Feminist punk group Pussy Riot hit the headlines when three members were jailed after an anti-Putin protest. One, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was later released - but her fellow band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are now serving their sentences in Siberian prison camps. The group came to the attention of the international media circuit in February when they caused a sensation by staging an illegal performance inside Moscow’s famous Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. A group of the women rushed to the altar dancing and crying “Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!” While their actions were swiftly stopped by church security, by that evening the footage had already been turned into a music video, in which it is possible to see them being removed from the church. The song was entitled Punk Prayer- Mother of God, Chase Putin. To criticise the government and the church in such a holy place is a highly controversial statement in Russia. The video rapidly went viral and the three women were arrested in March. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were arrested on the 3rd and charged with hooliganism, and Yekaterina Samutsevich was arrested on the 16th. All three were denied bail and kept in custody until their trial in July. It was in custody that the band members began to gain significant attention due to allegations of harsh treatment. They pleaded not guilty but were each convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Following an appeal, Samutsevich was released on probation on 10th October (essentially because she didn’t appear in the video.) Two other members of the Anti-Kremlin group have allegedly fled Russia to avoid imprisonment. During the past week it emerged that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were going to be sent to two prison camps far away from their homes. Alyokhina will serve the remainder of her sentence at a women's prison camp in Perm, a Siberian region notorious for hosting some of the Soviet Union's harshest camps. Tolokonnikova has been sent to Mordovia, a region that also hosts a high number of prisons, this has drawn criticism as her legal team don’t know which camp she is being sent to. Both had petitioned to serve their sentences in Moscow to be closer to their children (Alyokhina has a five-year-old son named Filipp, while Tolokonnikova has a four-year-old daughter named Gera.)
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