Female punk band set for trial in Russia
MOSCOW – Three young women who staged an irreverent punk-rock protest against Vladimir Putin on the altar of Russia’s main cathedral go on trial on Monday in a case seen as a test of the president’s tolerance of dissent.
The trial of the activists — from the band ‘Pussy Riot’ — should show how much power the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church and its head, Patriarch Kirill, wields. He has called the “punk prayer” blasphemy, casting it as part of a sinister anti-clerical campaign.
Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were jailed in late February after taking to the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral and belting out a song calling on the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out!”. The plight of the three women, two of whom have young children, has made headlines in the West.
Governments and rights groups, as well as musicians such as Sting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, have expressed concern about the trial, reflecting doubts that Putin — who is serving his third presidential term and could be in power until 2024 — will become more tolerant of dissenting voices.