23rd Mar 2018

EU to Russia: Free Pussy Riot

  • A few dozen people protested in front of the Russian embassy in Brussels on Friday (Photo: Valentina Pop)

A Moscow court on Friday (17 August) sentenced three young women from the Pussy Riot band to two years in jail for their "punk prayer" - a protest song performed in a cathedral and criticising President Vladimir Putin.

The verdict came in a packed room where the women, all in their 20s, sat smiling in a glass cage and showing their handcuffs to a crush of TV crews in perhaps most highly mediatised Russian trial since that of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Two of the band members have small children at home. (Photo: Russia Today)

The ruling - guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" - took three hours to read out, as the judge felt the need to re-read all the testimonies filed against them, complete with accusations of "sacrilege," "blasphemy", wearing "colourful and inappropriate clothes in a church [including] no head scarves" and trespassing in an "area of the church forbidden to women."

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina (both mothers of young children) and Yekaterina Samutsevich were also found guilty of "conspiracy" as they had "carefully" prepared their stunt on 21 February in Moscow's main cathedral, in which they implored the Virgin Mary to oust President Putin from power and accused the head of the Russian Orthodox Church of cozying up to the regime.

The Pussy Riot performance in a Moscow cathedral on 21 February 2012.

The trial is seen as yet another proof of Putin's decision to run his second presidency with an iron fist and his determination to crack down on opposition and dissent after a period of thaw during the presidency of Dmitry Medevedev.

Protests in support of Pussy Riot were staged on Friday in Moscow, Brussels, London, Berlin and Barcelona. Chess star and anti-Putin politician Gary Kasparov was reportedly arrested during the demonstrations.

Pop and rock singers from Madonna to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul McCartney and Sting have all voiced their outrage over the affair in recent weeks.

The three women have already been in pre-trial jail for five months.

For her part, the EU's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Friday said the sentence was "disproportionate" and called for it to be reversed.

"This case adds to the recent upsurge in politically motivated intimidation and prosecution of opposition activists in the Russian Federation, a trend that is of growing concern to the European Union. Respect for human rights and the rule of law is an indispensable part of the EU-Russia relationship," she said.

"Sentencing of the three young women, two of whom are mothers of small children, to two years in prison for a peaceful, if controversial, expression of their views, is deeply troubling."

Activists in Brussels were also worried about the signals sent out by the trial.

Philippe Hensemans, head of the Brussels branch of Amnesty International - a worldwide human rights group - told this website that the sentence is "part of a worrying re-evaluation of civil rights in Russia."

"Tolokonnikova was right in her testimony. If you are strong, you don't fear three punks singing. They were not asking for riots, it was a quite peaceful protest and they left quickly after their performance. Hooliganism based on religious sacrilege is a strange concept for a court," he noted.

Gay Pride banned for 100 years

Meanwhile, in a further blow to hum a rights campaigners, Moscow's top court on Friday upheld a ban on gay pride marches for the next 100 years, as imposed by the city council.

The case was brought by Nikolay Alexeyev, a gay rights campaigner, who has vowed to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

EU summit takes hard look at Russia

EU leaders will discuss Russian security threats in the wake of the UK attack, but will not adopt new sanctions at Thursday's summit.


Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

News in Brief

  1. EU wants 'Paris' climate strategy within 13 months
  2. Workload of EU court remains high
  3. Spain's supreme court charges Catalan separatist leaders
  4. EU calls for 'permanent' exemption from US tariffs
  5. Summit backs guidelines for future EU-UK talks
  6. Macron support drops as public sector workers go on strike
  7. EU leaders condemn Turkey for illegal actions in Aegean Sea
  8. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. Europe needs corporate tax reform - a digital tax isn't it
  2. EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica
  3. Russian diplomats risk EU expulsions over UK attack
  4. Three presidents should attend Bosnia memorial
  5. Trump keeps EU leaders waiting on tariffs
  6. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  7. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  8. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections