Daniel Zimnikov: Punk rockers Pussy Riot go on trial for anti-Putin church protest

Updated at 9:20 a.m. ET: MOSCOW – Three women who protested against Vladimir Putin in a “punk prayer” on the altar of Russia’s main cathedral went on trial Monday in a case seen as a test of the longtime leader’s treatment of dissent during a new presidential term.

The members of the band Pussy Riot face up to seven years in prison for an unsanctioned performance in February in which they entered Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, ascended the altar and called on the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out!”


Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were brought to Moscow’s Khamovniki court for Russia’s highest-profile trial since former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted in 2010.

Governments and rights groups, as well as musicians such as Sting, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand, have expressed concern about the trial, reflecting doubts that Putin – who is serving his third presidential term and could be in power until 2024 – will become more tolerant of dissenting voices.

On Monday, supporters chanted “Girls, we’re with you!” and “Victory!” as the women, each handcuffed by the wrist to a female officer, were led from a white and blue police van into the courthouse through a side entrance. Streets around the court, on a high Moscow River embankment, were closed.

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