Friday, June 01, 2012

Even Madonna

Pussy Riot lawyer appeals to Western celebrities for support -- The lawyer for three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who are currently awaiting trial for an allegedly blasphemous protest in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral shortly before the election that saw Vladimir Putin returned for a third term as Russian president, says only appeals from Western celebrities and high-profile cultural figures can save them from further criminal charges and long jail sentences. The performance infuriated the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, and other top church officials, who were criticised in the “punk prayer” performance which also asked the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Putin. “The authorities must now, in essence, falsify the charges,” says Nikolai Polozov. “It’s very hard for them to back down. I think the only option now is pressure from the outside. I don’t understand why Western pop and rock stars don’t want to support their Russian colleagues. There are many stars who speak out for various liberal values. Even Madonna, when she heard that St Petersburg plans to pass a homophobic law, said she plans to raise that question during her concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg.” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were arrested by heavily armed policemen on 3 March, the day before the election, and have been held on remand since then. A third suspect, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was arrested later. Tolokonnikova and her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, have been associated with the controversial art group Voina. Verzilov was detained briefly by police at an anti-Putin gathering in May. A YouTube video of February’s “punk prayer service” shows Pussy Riot members in front of the cathedral’s altar in trademark ski-masks, dancing wildly, prostrating themselves and making the sign of the cross. The song they performed, titled Holy Shit, was a condemnation of the Russian Orthodox church's close ties to Putin. The lyrics included the lines: "Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!" The women face up to seven years in prison on the initial charges. Further charges of inciting religious hatred might be pressed based on the video, says Polozov. The Russian Orthodox Church has denounced the performance as blasphemy reminiscent of Soviet attacks on the church and demanded the suspects’ prosecution and repentance. Christ the Saviour Cathedral was blown up on Stalin’s orders in 1931 and rebuilt in the 1990s. Polozov's great-grandfather was canonised for being martyred by the Bolsheviks. - Sophia Kishkovsky

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