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Russia's 'Pussy Riot' protesters jailed for two years

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Russia's 'Pussy Riot' protesters jailed for two years

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Three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been jailed for two years each for a high-profile protest on the altar of a Moscow cathedral.

The offence of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred carries a maximum of seven years in prison, but the state prosecutor had demanded three years in prison for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24 and 30-year-old Yekaterina Samutsevich.

The charges relate to the performance of a ‘punk prayer’ protest against President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February. They stormed into the church wearing bright ski masks before singing lyrics asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

Finding the three women guilty, the judge said “Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and Alyokhina committed an act of hooliganism, a gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society (based on) motives of religious hatred and enmity.”

Celebrities, including Madonna and Paul McCartney, had spoken out in support of the women.

The prosecution effort has been seen by some as part of a wider crackdown on opposition to Putin, however, there are people who believe the church protest went too far.

Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was again in the spotlight on Wednesday, after supporters of the tried women held a demonstration on the steps of the church bearing a message that read ‘Blessed are the merciful’.