Loyalists turn on Putin after Pussy Riot jail terms

 

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The Independent Online

Amid international condemnation of the two-year jail sentences that a Moscow court handed down to the punk trio Pussy Riot on Friday, critical voices within Russia have also begun to emerge. Several public figures regarded as close to the Kremlin have damned the verdict and complained about the effect it will have on Russia's international image.

"The sentence is shameful, incorrect, cruel and, most importantly, unbelievably stupid," wrote Maxim Shevchenko, a conservative television host and member of the Public Chamber, who is usually seen as a pro-Kremlin pundit. "The system has publicly made a fool of itself in front of the whole world."

The February performance by Pussy Riot in Moscow's Christ the Saviour cathedral drew little sympathy from most Russians, but after the aggressive pursuit of the women by authorities, the trio were gradually adopted by the leaders of opposition protests against President Vladimir Putin as one of their causes. Nevertheless, despite international musicians and politicians slamming the prosecution, most official voices in Russia remained quiet during the trial, which at times descended into farce.

After Friday's sentence of two years, for "hooliganism inspired by religious hatred", however, the chorus of disapproval has grown. "Huge damage has been done to the country's image, and to its attractiveness for investment," wrote Alexei Kudrin, the former Finance Minister and a longtime friend of Mr Putin's. Pro-Kremlin journalist Tina Kandelaki also focused on the effect on Russia's image of having the three women sent to jail for a 40-second mime inside a church, calling it "information suicide". Businessman Mikhail Prokhorov said the sentence was "bad – very bad", as it proved that the courts in Russia are not independent.

Madonna joined the chorus of condemnation, voicing her support for the punk band. "They've spent enough time in jail. I call on all of Russia to let Pussy Riot go free," she said.

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