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Moscow urged to free Pussy Riot

June 27, 2012

No sense in jailing the three rockers, says a letter signed by members of Russia’s cultural elite

MOSCOW: More than 100 of Russia’s best known actors, directors and musicians today  called for the release of three young women detained after singing an anti-Vladimir Putin song in a Moscow church.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina from the punk rock group Pussy Riot have been held in pre-trial detention since March over their performance of a “punk prayer” in the Church of Christ the Saviour.

“We do not see any legal foundation or practical sense in further isolating from society these young women who present no real danger,” said a letter published in the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily and signed by 103 artists.

The signatories included well-known opponents of President Putin like the detective author Boris Akunin, poet Dmitry Bykov and the rock singer Yury Shevchuk.

But also signing were much-loved actress Chulpan Khamatova and prominent actor Yevgeny Mironov, who both controversially appeared in a video earlier this year urging Russians to vote for Putin in the March elections.

In a virtual Who’s Who of the Russian cultural elite, other prominent names included the film director Andrei Konchalovsky, the ballet dancer Nikolai Tsikaridze and the composer Leonid Desyatnikov.

“We believe that the actions of Pussy Riot are not criminal. The girls killed no-one, stole from nobody, carried out no violence,” said the letter, which was also published on the website of popular radio station Moscow Echo.

“Russia is a secular state and no anti-clerical actions—as long as they are not a violation of the criminal code—can be a reason for criminal prosecution.”

The imprisonment of the trio has turned into a rallying cause for the opposition movement against Putin, with supporters arguing that even if their action was not appropriate the punishment is hugely disproportional.

The letter comes after a court last week extended their detention until July 24. A trial is not expected to begin any earlier than August.

The young women, two of whom have children, are charged with hooliganism by an organised group, an offence carrying a maximum jail term of seven years.

In February, the group shocked worshippers by climbing into an area reserved for priests and singing a song criticising the Russian Orthodox Church’s close ties to the Kremlin.—AFP


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