The point about the Pussy Riot trial is not that the protest was critical of Putin, but that it desecrated a religious institution, and the majority of the Russian people (many of whom have become very religious since the fall of Communism) objected to this, in my view quite rightly.
Personally, I quite like Vladimir Putin, in spite of his "hooded eyes" and somewhat reptilian expression. He may not be a democrat, but, under his rule, people are no longer sent off to hard labour in Siberia for the rest of their lives on trumped-up charges. Surely, that must be an improvement.
I agree with John Kampfner (14 August) that there is a rising middle class in Russia who are probably going to demand more freedom, and rightly so, but whatever they do, they will do in their way. If any nation deserves to do it "their way" it is the Russians, whose history may have been tragic, but has always been honourable as far as the rest of Europe is concerned.
I applaud the Russian authorities for convicting Pussy Riot of committing a hate crime against religion. The band wilfully, maliciously and blasphemously desecrated a Russian Orthodox church.
Everyone has a right to freedom of expression. This includes those who were attending the religious service in question. These people's rights were obviously denied and violated by the surprise guerrilla invasion. Many – especially the older and religiously devout – may have been seriously traumatised.
I believe a two-year sentence is rather harsh for such a crime. I would rather have seen the girls forced to attend Holy Mass each day followed by an hour of bible school, perhaps for a year. In this way their punishment could be served out in the form of rehabilitation.
Any sentence to a prison colony is barbarous, given the harsh detention conditions. In the case of the two-year sentence on Pussy Riot it is also a huge violation of freedom of expression.
Their only "crime'' was the singing of a protest song against the Putin regime in a Moscow cathedral. Pussy Riot didn't act against Christian principles, but defended them by protesting against the inhuman Putin policy and the Orthodox Church's support for Putin as a president.
The sentencing of Pussy Riot is an ill omen for President Putin. It was the prosecution of the Czech rock band Plastic People of the Universe that led Vaclav Havel to form Charter 77 – and we all know where that led. As for the Plastics, as they are affectionately called, they are still performing (albeit with rather grey beards) to rapturous crowds.
Pussy Riot, who protested against Vladimir Putin, have been convicted of hooliganism inspired by religious hatred. Does this mean Vladimir Putin thinks he is a god?
No more fudging on the morality of assisted suicide
For all the intellectualising over assisted suicide and euthanasia, the stark reality is that stroke victim Tony Nicklinson has an unimpaired intellect in a useless body, and is literally crying out for a merciful release. This is being denied him by a society which claims to be civilised and compassionate, and in this instance is shown to be neither.
Every MP should be searching their conscience whether they should do something about this appalling situation in a country which takes human rights seriously yet denies the most important of all, an individual's right of decision over their own life. We cannot continue to fudge the issue.
West Kirby, Wirral
I write to reassure your readers that there are many doctors and other healthcare professionals who are neutral regarding the law on assisting dying. The spokesmen from the BMA and Royal College of Physicians of London have stated that their organisations are against any change in the law. Many of their members disagree and some are members of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying.
Healthcare professionals' duty is to do what is best for the patient. If Mr Nicklinson and family lived in Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg, Oregon or Washington he would very likely have his rational wish fulfilled and the suffering of all concerned be alleviated.
Dr Chris Burns-Cox
People like Tony Nicklinson are not claiming a right to die but a right to be killed. Since rights and obligations are reciprocal, if someone has a right to be killed, someone else has an obligation to kill them. But surely no such obligation exists, and so there is no right to be killed.
In view of the desperate plight of Tony Nicklinson and the unfortunate recent judgment, would it not be possible to rig up a machine and cannula that operated on eye-blinks to a computer page, the cannula delivering morphine or a similar drug?
A single appropriate eye-blink delivers a single shot, sufficient simply to reduce discomfort. Someone, though, who sought suicide could, despite warnings, give a surge of blinks, ensuring a fatal overdose.
Following the High Court ruling in the cases of Tony Nicklinson and "Martin", may we suggest that anyone who is terminally ill but upright and functional, who embraces the right to die with dignity, should volunteer to assist those of right mind who wish to end their lives at home. We would.
India reaches out into space
The patronising and populist tone of your editorial "India has better uses for its money here on Earth" (17 August) does you no credit. India has a record of success in space, so her plan to launch a probe to Mars is hardly "an empty boast which will never come to fruition".
The future of India's poor does not depend on Britain's aid but upon the ability of the Indian people to lift themselves out of poverty by education, enterprise, and innovation. India's space programme will inspire future generations of Indian scientists and drive the development of science and technology in its dynamic growing economy.
India is already a significant player in commercial space and the Mars mission is an investment in science and technology which will pay dividends. Britain needs India as a market and trading partner much more than India needs Britain, and British aid to India is, as the British Government has admitted, linked more to trade than development. There are many much poorer countries in the world than India which the British Government could and should help, and it is Britain's rather than India's priorities which should be questioned here.
Perhaps it would be better to focus on India's achievements since the end of British colonial rule and applaud this announcement as yet another sign of her progress, rather than suggesting that a great nation and its people should limit their ambitions to what we in Britain think is acceptable.
India has a long history of scholarship in science and mathematics and the Indian space programme is a legitimate part of that tradition, not a vanity project.
Blame for the G4S fiasco
I can't see how the Defence Secretary – or anyone else – can blame the G4S fiasco on "the private sector". In all government contracts the party awarding the contract has the clear responsibility to specify the outcomes it wants, to set clear milestones, run a transparent risk assessment and to appoint contract managers whose skills and resources are up to the job.
It is pretty clear G4S failed to deliver on their undertakings for the security of the Olympics, but public servants responsible for the contract must share the blame – even though their role was far less public and was diffused inchoately through the relevant bureaucracies. With a big and important contract like this, ministers also have some direct responsibility which should not be delegated.
It is far from clear to me that private sector G4S were that much more at fault than the public sector watchdogs who went to sleep – for years.
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire
When Philip Hammond speaks of G4S operating within a cost envelope for providing security at the London Olympics, does he mean that the calculations were done on the back of an envelope?
Gerard J Ward
Official view of ministers
It is always wise to treat with suspicion suggestions from politicians that officials choose not to implement government policy ("Civil servants' jobs to depend on appraisals by politicians", 15 August).
Will officials be allowed to comment in their appraisals by ministers on the extent to which proposed policies are sensible, practical, and legal? Or, as a former minister under Margaret Thatcher, is Francis Maude trying to ensure that officials are "one of us"?
I have studied the A-level statistics and noted that a far greater percentage of students got an A-star in maths or further maths than any other subjects. Having applied Gove's Law, I conclude that these subjects are therefore much easier than the rest and thus need to be down-graded immediately, if not sooner.
The UK was always expected to gain more Olympic medals this year. The host country usually sees an increase in medals in the Games preceding their home Games, where they achieve their maximum tally. In the following two games, they also gain a small "spike" of medals as they regress toward the mean. Ere long, 2008-2020 will be seen as a "golden era" for UK sports.
Tea for who?
Philip Hensher, whose photo appears at the top of his column, wrote on 18 August that one way for the railways to save money would be to sack 50 per cent of the two staff members who serve him a cup of tea on his regular train journey between Exeter and London. Brave man, I say. I assume he'll be taking a flask of his own tea in future.
Tax up in smoke
Terence Blacker (17 August) should have made more of the great smoking brouhaha's financial side. In 2010-11, smokers paid £11bn of voluntary tax into the Exchequer. To make good the collapse of tobacco revenue so ardently desired by the anti-smokers, what new compulsory taxes are they happy to impose on smokers and non-smokers alike?
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