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Thursday, 2 August 2012

Putin urges court to go easy on Pussy Riot

Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticised the feminist punk rockers facing trial for performing a "punk prayer" against him at Moscow's main cathedral, but says their punishment shouldn't be too severe.
Putin's comments to Russian reporters on a visit to the London Olympics on Thursday were his first reaction to the trial of three members of the Pussy Riot band.
It may signal that the Kremlin has opted for a milder punishment for the women than the seven years they could face.
Asked about the case, Putin said the stunt "was no good" and would have entailed a much tougher punishment for its participants if they had performed it at a holy site in Israel or even death if they had done it at some Muslim site in Russia's North Caucasus region.
"If they went to desecrate some Islamic holy site, we wouldn't even have had time to take them into custody," he said before suggesting they had already learned their lessons and mustn't face an especially tough punishment.
"I don't think that a verdict should be very severe," he said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. "I hope that the court will make a fair, well-founded ruling."
Courts in Russia closely heed signals from the government, and Putin's statement sounded like a clear sign that the verdict for the rockers might be milder than anticipated.
Putin's visit to the Games came as leading British musicians joined an international outcry over the band's treatment.
The Who's Pete Townshend, former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys and others said the band members were involved in legitimate protest and called for their release in a letter published in The Times newspaper.
Asked whether he discussed the Pussy Riot case during talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Putin said no.
The punk rockers performed their stunt two weeks before Putin's return to the presidency in the election in March.
Dressed in brightly coloured miniskirts and balaclavas, they took over a pulpit of Moscow's main cathedral, high-kicked and danced while singing a song pleading: "Virgin Mary, drive Putin away!"
The trio have been in custody for five months since their stunt in February.
At their trial, which began in earnest on Monday, they pleaded not guilty to the charges of hooliganism driven by religious hatred.

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