Moscow court extends detention of Pussy Riot group members


A Moscow court on Thursday extended until 24 June the detention of women alleged to be members of the punk bank Pussy Riot.  The women were arrested in February after several members of Pussy Riot wearing balaclava masks staged a protest in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, singing a protest song calling on the Virgin Mary to save them from Putin.

Amnesty International, which has declared the women prisoners of conscience, writes that the Russian authorities subsequently arrested Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova on 4 March and Ekaterina Samusevich on 15 March claiming they were the masked singers. Although the three women admit to being members of the larger ‘Pussy Riot’ group, they deny any involvement in the particular protest in the cathedral.

They have been charged with hooliganism under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Article 213), which carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.

The BBC reports that at least 20 protesters and Russian Orthodox opponents of the women were detained outside the custody hearing.  “Around 100 people had gathered outside the court building, with supporters of the women chanting "Freedom". Witnesses described seeing flares being set off and an egg being thrown by an Orthodox activist at the husband of one of the accused women….

The song, which has an obscene chorus, savages Vladimir Putin, controversially re-elected last month for a third term as Russian president, and also appears to mock Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Patriarch’s official spokesman, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, told the BBC that "the main task of the state and society is to guarantee that nothing of that kind happens again and in this sense I think the state and society should be severe". reports that one of the reasons given by the court for extending the custody was the women’s personal safety because of threats by those angered at the alleged action. The judge Yelena Ivanova asserted that there were “objective reasons” for the extension. The defence say that the womtn have not even been questioned over the last month and a half.

Ms Tolokonnikova has complained of health problems and said that she needs medical treatment.

Maria Alekhina complained that she has not been allowed visits from her small child and common-law husband. “If for criticizing the regime I can’t hear my own child’s voice, that means one thing alone – welcome to 1937” (the worst year of the Terror – translator). 

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