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Russia's Pussy Riot band and Putin's iron fist

August 1st, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Even though people power is asserting itself around the world and authoritarian regimes are falling, one is standing firmer than ever: Russia. Vladimir Putin has returned to the presidency for the third time and is lowering the iron fist.

Tonight, I spoke with Petr Verzilov, who’s an artist, activist and the husband of one of the jailed band members of a Russian feminist punk rock band called Pussy Riot. In February, the group did a protest, storming the altar at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior and called upon the Virgin Mary to "put Putin away." Of course, many found this performance offensive; but is it criminal? The women are charged with "hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred or hostility.” In Russia, that’s a felony, with a maximum seven year jail sentence. The group has pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, but they've already been in prison for five months. Two of them have small children, whom they haven't seen since their arrest.

MORE:  3 members of Russian band Pussy Riot plead not guilty to hooliganism

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Andy in Oz

    Political protest is of course fine, especially given the somewhat authoritarian democracy seen in Russia these days..... it was probably unwise and inappropriate to do so in a church.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  2. LOLed HARD!

    Okay, so if it was in USA would be they released? I mean if they did same thing in some church?

    August 1, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Reply
    • Nonredneck

      Probably. They might be charged with vandalism or destruction of property, given a slap on the wrist and let go.

      August 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son

      They wouldn't be released because they wouldn't have been arrested. Not on those charges anyway. Trespassing maybe, assuming the church pressed charges.

      August 17, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • Cadiz

      They would get away with it in San Francisco, and nowhere else.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  3. Marianne Johnpillai

    Why did they have to do it in a holy place? Whether we agree with their motive is not the point, they have to be punished for descrating a holy place. To get respect, you have to show respect and it is obvious that this group blatantly disregarded the rights of a believing community, to keep a place sacred that they hold sacred. I do hope they are meted the appropriate punishment.

    August 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Reply
    • Olga

      I understand that many believers are offended by the actions of these girls, but their idea that this is a corrupt place. As this church can be rented for "special" events. http://www.fxxc.ru/rent/ The defense lawyers tried to bring it up in court, but it was immediately dismissed.

      August 2, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son

      >they have to be punished for descrating a holy place<

      One man’s holy place is another man’s garbage dump. Superior nations have separation of church and state. Just because you were offended is not a reason to put someone in prison or k!ll them in extreme cases.

      August 17, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
  4. Becky

    Who genuinely thinks these activists–or anyone else stuck in Putinworld-–is free to do or say anything Vlad disapproves of? Really, what did we really expect at his return w/his iron fist, intimidation & past record? Back 2 Putin's good ol' Russia! EX-KGB--NOT!

    August 2, 2012 at 1:10 am | Reply
  5. jay

    Putin is basically a gangster and operates as such, particularly in terms of retribution and eliminating rivals and critics. Expect more of the same.

    August 2, 2012 at 2:07 am | Reply
  6. Dervid

    Worse case, unlawful entry into property which is in fact a felony; however, it was obviously a political act so a fine and a slap on the wrist (with community service TO the Chuch) should be the punishment, nothing more. Russia really is a backward state.

    August 2, 2012 at 2:27 am | Reply
  7. BOGDAN

    WHY BRITAIN ALLOWS PUTIN TO VISIT IT?

    August 2, 2012 at 2:28 am | Reply
  8. connie

    Putin all over three young girls in Prison over anti Putin Punk song but Magneski murders and crimals on even charges as Puton finds it offensive that the west should complain about goverment sponsered corruption and Murder Putin has lost the plot to much mone and power if I was in Russia I could go to jail for this tweet

    August 2, 2012 at 3:39 am | Reply
  9. Na-Mak

    Publicity stunt......miscalculated
    They need to pick their audience better.....otherwise someone will have to manage that part for them.
    Imagine you are at the concert hall with the kids.....and masked men or women jump out.....with the terror acts, I imagine this was a cruel event to live through in church.
    Na Mak

    August 2, 2012 at 3:42 am | Reply
  10. nijaman

    These three young women have no regard for God. Whatever their case, the church is not the place for the type of infamy they displayed in the church. But thank God for Christianity's tolerance which derives from the love of Jesus Christ. If this had happened with one of the opposite faiths they would have since met their maker without the government lifting a finger on them.
    Whether their act is criminal or not, they are guilty of something – and should be punished they serve as deterrent to others.

    August 2, 2012 at 4:07 am | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son

      Tolerance.. right.
      That’s why they are facing 7 years in person for a SONG! Your religion is not better than those you condemn.

      Remember.. you have no more proof of your god than there is for Zues, Ra or Ganesha.

      August 17, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
  11. rad

    ur a complete looser.demogag,liberal..LOOSER AND A LIEAR.CNN END OF MUNIPULATIVE ERA.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  12. Liz

    The grrrls were simply doing some direct action against an oppressive state with a rigged election and freedom of expression returning to the Soviet times. They're scapegoats. All are activists and this was an excuse to arrest them. The religious hatred charge is a guise for a majority atheist country where believers are a minority. Petr Verzilov is involved in anti government activism so why not arrest him? Would it be something to do with he's a dual Canadian-Russian national? Lets keep it quiet and arrest Russians. Plenty have been arrested for telling the truth and no one cared or knew about it. Obviously, the church and the government underestimated the impact of these three young women. Let our sisters go for this overblown charge and for what is basically a show trial.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Reply
    • Cadiz

      When Stalin didn't like a joke, an entire class of people might vanish and the towns they inhabited might be wiped from the face of the earth. So, I think a lot of hyperbole. They had to work so very hard to get arrested, they tried and tried and finally, they got what they wanted, they're famous.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Reply
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    I love Hitler! Zieg Heil!

    August 9, 2012 at 2:08 am | Reply
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    August 17, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
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