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Punk protest 'Pussy Riot' trial begins in Moscow

Three members of the punk protest group are on trial for singing an anti-Vladimir Putin song in Moscow’s main cathedral.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich behind bars at the court room in Moscow
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich behind bars at the court room in Moscow
Image: (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

THREE FEMALE MEMBERS of a punk protest group go on trial in Russia today after they held a brief protest against Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s main cathedral.

Five members of the group took over the pulpit during a service at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February and chanted “Mother Mary, drive Putin away”.

The women, who were wearing homemade masks, were rounded up by security guards after less than a minute.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church described the performance as blasphemous. However thousands of supporters signed a petition in support of the women and said that the government refuses to accept and allow legitimate forms of protest.

The case is seen as a landmark event in the struggle between President Putin and the increasingly vocal opposition.

The women – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – face up to seven years in prison on charges of hooliganism.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has called for calm over the case.

“Let us wait for the investigation to be over and the verdict of the court and then we can say if a crime was committed or not,” Medvedev said today.

“The case has resonance as it really concerns our understanding of rights and freedoms of individuals,” he added.

Vladimir Putin, who was re-elected as president for the third time in March, said that the performance was “unpleasant for all believers”.

Members of Pussy Riot taking over the altar at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow in February before security guards stopped them. (Photo: AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

- Additional reporting by AFP

Russian punk rockers in jail for anti-Putin prayer >

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