In Russia, three members of a feminist punk band are on trial this week and could face up to seven years in prison for staging a church protest against Russian leader Vladimir Putin. In February, five members of the group Pussy Riot rushed before the altar in one of Russia’s main Orthodox cathedrals wearing dresses, tights and brightly colored balaclavas. They danced, genuflected and prayed to the Virgin Mary to expel Putin, who is now serving a third stint as Russia’s president. The three, all in their twenties, have been in jail for five months and could face up to seven years on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility." Two of the women have small children. In a rally outside the courtroom, a supporter of the band called for their immediate release.
Vitaly Zalomov: "This is not a trial. This is revenge. You see, the authorities have reached a point where they don’t abide by the law themselves. For a misdemeanor, let’s face it, people are thrown into jail. And they’ve been holding them there, young mothers, for half a year already."
The trial comes amid fears of an increasing crackdown on dissent in Russia. On Tuesday, Russian investigators charged anti-corruption blogger and activist Alexei Navalny with embezzlement, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.