Pussy Riot verdict: live report

Pussy Riot Superheroes Freeze Flashmob

Pussy Riot Superheroes Freeze Flashmob (Photo credit: Eyes on Rights)

By Judith Evans (AFP) – 4 hours ago

1424 GMT: Human rights organisation Amnesty International, which has taken up Pussy Riot’s cause, tweets: “2 years prison for a 30 second protest song. Insanity.

“Bitter blow to freedom of expression in Russia.”

It earlier tweeted: “PussyRiot isn’t the only travesty of justice in Russia today, Moscow also banned (Gay) Pride for 100 years.”

1422 GMT: Reports are coming through that Russia’s top court has meanwhile upheld a ban on gay pride marches in Moscow for the next 100 years.

1421 GMT: “There is nothing more absurd than this trial and this sentence,” says opposition journalist and activist Olga Romanova.

1420 GMT: The two-year sentence is to include the five months that the three women have already served, the judge says.

1419 GMT: “It is simply idiocy,” says Russian writer Boris Akunin of the verdict, speaking to the Dozhd television channel from close to the court.

1415 GMT: The live broadcast of the final hearing in Pussy Riot’s trial was cut off just after the three women’s two-year jail sentence was pronounced.

About 400 Pussy Riot supporters are gathered outisde the court, chanting “Shame!” and calling the convinction “fascist”.

1400 GMT: The three young women committed a “serious crime” and “should be punished”, says judge Marina Syrova, sentencing them to two years’ jail at a corrective labour facility for “hooliganism” and “incitement to religious hatred”.

In the courtroom, the verdict was greeted by cries of “Shame!” and “Injustice!”

1357 GMT: The sentence is not quite as severe as requested by the prosecution, which had sought for the three women to be jailed for three years.

But of course it will not be welcome news to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, respectively 22 and 24 and both mothers of young children, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, who looked wan as they stood inside a glass cage to hear the outcome of their trial.


1342 GMT: It’s now been over two hours that the judge has been making her statement.

Lawyers in the court are looking at each other quizzically, shrugging and leaning against the walls.

The three members of Pussy Riot had been smiling and laughing earlier but seem to be struggling to appear upbeat now.

Even the judge seems out of breath and keeps sighing as she delivers the judgement, our Moscow bureau reports.

1333 GMT: Garry Kasparov‘s arrest is now confirmed — AFP has a picture of him being hustled into a police van.

1313 GMT: A poll published on the front page of the Vedomosti business daily today shows President Vladimir Putin‘s approval rating slipping to a post-election low of 48 percent — a notable slide from the 60 percent he enjoyed around his May inauguration.

1303 GMT: Forging ahead with her statement, the judge Marina Syrova quotes Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” — sung in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour — as evidence of their guilt.

“The patriarch, he believes in Putin, but he’d better believe in God,” she quotes.

The three accused women seem energised by this and start singing in their glass cage.

1256 GMT: “I knew it would be a guilty verdict. In Russia, if the accused are put in prison before trial, it means a guaranteed verdict of guilty,” human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva tells Dozhd television.

She laments that Russian authorities and leaders of the Orthodox church did not think about the “consequences of the verdict for their reputation”.

1250 GMT: “We condemn them. We must have no illusions. But no one is afraid,” tweets one of Pussy Riot’s lawyers, Mark Feiguine, from the courtroom as the judge’s statement continues.

1240 GMT: Protests in support of Pussy Riot are taking place close to Russian embassies in London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels.

Many of the demonstrators have opted for bright balaclavas but at least one, in Berlin, has a particularly lifelike Vladimir Putin mask.

They’re backed by rights organisations including Amnesty International, which has urged supporters to email Russia’s prosecutor general over the case, and freedom of expression group Article 19.

1235 GMT: After more than half an hour of detailed descriptions of the “hateful” and “indecent” acts committed in their February protest performance, the three women look tired and are starting to yawn.

They have complained before of being deprived of food and sleep in detention.

1230 GMT: There is something of a battle of slogans going on among the crowds of protesters outside the court, say AFP’s reporters.

The band’s supporters are yelling “Freedom for Pussy Riot” while the rival group of religious, anti-Pussy Riot protesters scream “Christ is risen”. They seem to be trying to outdo each other for sheer volume.

1221 GMT: The courtroom is absolutely packed with journalists and about another 50 are in the corridors and on the stairs.

An audio transmission of the hearing is now being played throughout the building — including the dining room and toilet — in a move that Russian news agencies say is “unprecedented”.

1215 GMT: The three stare at the ceiling, looking bored, while the judge speaks of a security guard at the cathedral who says he is no longer able to work there because it is “too hard for him” after having been “deeply insulted” by the Pussy Riot performance.

The judge is running through an account of what happened on February 21.

1210 GMT: The judge is summarising the different arguments made in the trial — it sounds as though she could be a while…

1200 GMT: The three accused have “expressed clearly and explicitly their hatred of Christianity,” says the judge.

Meanwhile, a police bus is driving off outside, full of protesters shouting: “Putin will die in prison.”

1155 GMT: Here are the words in which the judge found the three women guilty:

“Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism — in other words, a grave violation of public order,” she said.

“The court finds them guilty. The court reached this decision based on testimony of the defendants themselves and other evidence.”

They displayed a “clear disrespect toward society”, she said.

1149 GMT: The judge is expected to sentence the three Pussy Riot members — two of whom have small children — later today. The prosecution is seeking three years of corrective labour.

1145 GMT: The crowd outside has swelled to about 400 Pussy Riot supporters, with police trying to divide demonstrators into two groups.

1143 GMT: About 20 people have been arrested outside the court since the start of the judgement, according to AFP reporters at the scene.

They include former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, now an opposition political figure, reports the Interfax news agency.

1141 GMT: The three accused, who were already smiling, start to laugh as they listen to the judge’s statement.

1135 GMT: Pussy Riot “carefully planned” their February 21 action, the judge adds.

1130 GMT: The trio “expressed no repentance” and “offended the feelings of believers”, says the judge.

1125 GMT: Judge Marina Syrova reads out the judgement, stating that Pussy Riot “committed a serious breach of public order, motivated by religious hatred” and engaged in ” provocative and insulting acts in a religious building”.

The three defendants listen, smiling inside their glass cage.

1123 GMT: All three have been found guilty of hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred.


1115 GMT: The judge has started delivering the judgement, according to our reporter.

1114 GMT: From the courthouse, our reporters say the judge is late in starting the session while a growing number of Pussy Riot supporters are gathering outside.

About 100 people are now chanting “Freedom for Pussy Riot” outside the court.

1112 GMT: In Ukraine, a topless activist from feminist group Femen used a chainsaw to cut down an Orthodox cross in Kiev’s central square this morning in support of Pussy Riot.

1059 GMT: More on those balaclava-clad statues: the coloured headgear has been spotted on the monument to 18th-century scientist and writer Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, a few hundred metres from the Kremlin.

A statue of 19th-century poet and dramatist Alexander Pushkin on the Stary Arbat pedestrian street in central Moscow was also wearing a balaclava earlier this morning.

According to Russian news agencies, some passers-by felt this was a desecration of the memory of these great Russians — but others just responded with a smile.

1055 GMT: A reminder of the act which sparked all this: the three put on balaclavas and performed a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral in February, imploring the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”.

Worshippers present in the cathedral have spoken of their shock at the unexpected performance.

The context: mass protests against the government following legislative elections in 2011 and ahead of Putin’s return to the presidency, following a stint as prime minister, in March.

The Orthodox church made plain its support for Putin but his opponents accused his party of electoral fraud and repression.

1050 GMT: There has been a shift in public opinion in the singers’ favour, according to a poll conducted by the respected private Levada Centre.

The public initially backed a full seven-year sentence applicable to the crime but have since moved towards thinking the state’s treatment of the trio has been too harsh.

In July, 33 percent of respondents said a seven-year jail term was “adequate” — down from 47 percent in April — with many others thinking a shorter sentence was called for.

But only 5 percent believed in July that Pussy Riot should not be punished at all.

1044 GMT: The three accused have made it clear they won’t be asking President Vladimir Putin for a pardon.

“Let him ask you and me for forgiveness instead,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta in an interview published to coincide with the verdict.

1038 GMT: Not everyone supports Pussy Riot, however — their opponents have also turned out for the verdict.

A group of Orthodox believers are singing a religious song outside the court, and one of them says: “I want Pussy Riot and all who support them to burn in the fire.”

Members of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) are here to express their solidarity with the church and denounce Pussy Riot.

“Lower your hands before the Russian Orthodox Church,” reads a placard held by one of them.

1034 GMT: Leftist politician Sergei Udaltsov, a key opposition figure who came to show support for Pussy Riot, and two demonstrators — one hooded, the other holding a placard calling for the women’s release — have been arrested near the court.

A group of about ten young women is meanwhile demonstrating outside, with “We are all Pussy Riot — August 17” on the T-shirt of one supporter.

1033 GMT: Dozens of police have been deployed around the court building and metal barricades placed on both sides of the street, preventing any large-scale gathering, says our reporter at the scene.

1030 GMT: The prominent Putin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny has arrived outside the courthouse, causing a stir among the crowds waiting outside.

1026 GMT: International support for the three Pussy Riot members has been building this week, with rallies from Sydney to New York joining Madonna and Paul McCartney in calling for their release.

More protests are due today, while journalists in Moscow have spotted downtown statues wearing brightly coloured balaclavas, a Pussy Riot trademark.

WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT on the verdict in the trial of three members of Pussy Riot — the Russian protest band whose ridicule of President Vladimir Putin through a “punk prayer” in a church could be punished by three years in a labour camp.

The bandmates, two of them mothers and none older than 30, have been held in pre-trial detention for five months.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich are charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after their performance sparked fury from both Putin supporters and the Russian Orthodox church.

The trio have already asked the faithful to forgive them for causing insult but vigorously defended their view that Russia has made little progress in the 12 years of Putin’s domination from the worst of its totalitarian days.

Judge Marina Syrova is due to begin reading her verdict in the Moscow court at 1100 GMT, under tight security, before taking what could be hours to read through case material ahead of sentencing.


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February 2021
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