Thursday

26th May 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 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.

France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday that Poland's recovery plan could be approved within a week. This could also help unblock Warsaw's reluctance to agree to the tax deal.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us