Russia stops the “Riot” girls

By Nicholas Nehamas

Here’s an update on last Saturday’s Mishmash at Latitude News, in which we showed a YouTube video of an all-girl Russian punk band that held an “unscheduled” concert at a church in Moscow.

Pussy Riot playing in Red Square January 2012. (Reuters/Denis Sinyakov)

“Pussy Riot” might not be easy on the ears, but this all-girl Russian punk band is certainly making itself heard. Last month the dissident rockers broke into Moscow’s largest church, took over the pulpit, and held an impromptu concert as shocked worshippers looked on. Wearing tights, bright dresses and ski masks, Pussy Riot’s message was clear: the Russian Orthodox Church has formed an unholy alliance of power and influence with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Among their lyrics: “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”

It was a song the Kremlin didn’t want to hear. Authorities quickly arrested two of the band’s leaders, sparking protests in Moscow and at Russian embassies in Paris, Berlin and Prague. Now, the Moscow Times reports, police have arrested another member, Irina Loktyeva. Like her musical colleagues, who are currently on a hunger strike, Loktyeva faces up to seven years in jail for “hooliganism.” Their imprisonment has led to a fierce debate on church and state among Russia’s netizens on Facebook, Twitter and the still popular LiveJournal. It’s unclear how openly the government will handle this prosecution, and whether they want to make an example of these provocative young women. But state-owned Ria Novosti says Church leaders will ask for leniency if they feel Pussy Riot’s sentence is too “severe.”

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