PROSECUTORS in the case of the three women accused of
desecrating the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour,
in Moscow, with their performance of a "punk prayer", have demanded
a three-year prison sentence for the offence.
The women are members of the band Pussy Riot. Protesters stormed
a service at the cathedral in February to perform a song that
called on the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out" (News, Comment, 3
The stunt was designed to highlight the close relationship
between the Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin, then Prime
Minister, whose campaign to return to the presidency was supported
by the leader of the Church, Patriarch Kirill.
The trial of Marya Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and
Yekaterina Samutsevich has attracted worldwide attention. On
Tuesday, prosecutors called for them to receive a three-year prison
sentence. On Wednesday, the judge said that he would issue a
verdict next Friday.
The women have apologised for their actions, but Patriarch
Kirill has said that the act amounted to blasphemy.
The state prosecutor, Alexei Nikiforov, said on Tuesday: "The
actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and
enmity. Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God."
Concerns over their five-month detention have been raised by the
European Union; and the women have won the support of performers
such as Sting and Madonna. The latter is performing in Moscow and
St Petersburg next week.
President Putin, speaking during a visit to the Olympic Games in
London last week, called for leniency.
The trial has been interpreted by opposition activists in Russia
as an attempt to crack down on any dissent in Russia against the