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Lawyers debate "Pussy Riot" outcome

Assessments are rather contradictory
RBK, 17 August 20112

The commissioner of the government at the Constitutional Court, Mikhail Barshevskii, compared the verdict in the "Pussy Riot" case with an inquisition. In the lawyer's opinion, the court issued a verdict regarding the feminists being guided by the rules of the medieval judicial system, RSN reports.

"In law there is the concept of objective imputation, when responsibility is attached not to the intention of the action committed but to the consequences that accrue. The concept of objective imputation was characteristic of the period of the inquisition in medieval Europe. Now the world's concept of responsibility is for guilt," the attorney noted. In M. Barshevskii's opinion, the feminists should have been punished on the basis of an administrative article.

In his turn, attorney Genri Reznik, in an interview with RBK, called the verdict in the case "a disgrace and a discrediting of Russian justice." "This is madness and a disgrace. Innocent people were intentionally convicted," the lawyer concluded. He called attention to the fact that the girls' actions did not constitute criminally punishable activity and their case should have been categorized as an administrative violation of law.

At the same time, attorney Igor Trunov points out that the verdict on the punk group members was, from a judicial point of view, formally correct. In an interview with RBK, he pointed out that in judicial practice, a term of 2 to 3 years incarceration for hooliganism is extremely common.

However, the attorney suggests that the punishment for hooliganism that is provided by the current Criminal Code of the Russian federation should be lessened, since current practice "is an echo of the soviet past." According to I. Trunov, the court also did not take into account the political aspect of this case, and from this point of view the court should have issued a separate ruling against the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, since it was his statement about the support by RPTs of the candidacy of Vladimir Putin in the election of the Russian president that provoked "Pussy Riot" to perform the "punk prayer service."

In I. Trunov's opinion, the patriarch should not have made such a statement, since, according to the constitution of RF, Russia is a secular state. Interference of the church in the political sphere, in the attorney's opinion, suggested to "Pussy Riot" the idea that they could oppose supporters of V. Putin on the territory of the church itself.

At the same time, a lawyer for the victims, Larisa Pavlova, in an interview with RSN, called the verdict of Khamovniki court Judge Marina Syrova "very competent." "The verdict is very voluminous. All the evidence that was examined in the trial was taken into account. The position of the defense was evaluated. The term—two years incarceration—is less that the prosecution requested. But the court explained in detail why a lesser term was given," the advocate pointed out.

The controversial demonstration by the feminists occurred on 21 February 2012. Activists of the "Pussy Riot" group conducted a "punk prayer service" in the church of Christ the Savior. They performed a song "Mother of God, Drive Putin away," which contained vulgar expressions and criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill. A criminal case on the basis of part 2, article 213 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism) was opened for the incident of the "punk prayer service." Today the defendants were sentenced to two years in a penal colony of general regime. The girls will be able to go free in March 2014. The defense of the convicts intends to appeal the sentence. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 August 2012)

Russian original posted on site, 22 August 2012

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"Pussy Riot" loses one appeal

Interfax-Religiia, 22 August 2012

The Moscow City Court ruled that the extension of the detention of three members of the "Pussy Riot" punk group until 12 January is legal.

As an Interfax correspondent reported, the judicial college thereby rejected the appeal of the girls' defense attorneys.

At preliminary hearings on the "Pussy Riot" case, which were held on 20 July, the Khamovniki district court of the capital granted the petition of the investigation and extended the detention of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alikina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich until 12 January 2013.

Several days later, the defense of the group members appealed this decision in a higher instance, the Moscow City Court. During the course of the trial of the girls it was learned that the consideration of the appeal that was submitted was scheduled for 20 August. However, the verdict in the case was issued three days before the session of the judicial college of the Moscow City Court. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 August 2012)

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Innocuous  demonstrators hit with steep fines

Interfax-Religiia, 21 August 2012

A municipal court of Samara sentenced Igor Titarenko and Stanislav Zhuravliev to fines of 10,000 rubles on Tuesday for participating on 17 August in a march with balloons in support of "Pussy Riot."

As I. Titarenko, who was fined, told Interfax, outher who were arrested during the demonstration in support of the group expect a similar fate.

Last Friday, around 50 persons walked along the Leningrad pedestrian street in Samara, with variegated balloons. At the end of the street the activists released the balloons to symbolize the release of the members of the "punk prayer service." After the demonstration, nine persons were arrested. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 August 2012)

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"Pussy Riot" affair alienates educated persons from church

Church had to answer letter of unemployed cleric regarding "Pussy Riot" trial
by Olga Shulga
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 21 August 2012

Yesterday an open letter to Patriarch Kirill from a deacon of RPTs, Sergei Baranov, appeared. In it the unemployed cleric of the Tambov diocese called the sentence of the "Pussy Riot" members "unjust" and charged that the Moscow patriarchate "was in essence the initiator of opening the criminal case." Representatives of the patriarchate denied the deacon's charge, although experts think that the image of the church was greatly damaged by this whole story.

In the appeal to the head of RPTs, posted on Facebook, Deacon Baranov calls the trial of the punk group members "the disgraceful events of recent months." In his opinion, the verdict was issued "at the direct instigation of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church and people who unreasonably call themselves 'Orthodox citizens.'" Father Sergei said that the "Pussy Riot" case had further strengthened Russia's isolation from the rest of the world, "which not only thinks our country to be aggressive and unfree, but also appears to be a country of judicial and religious obscurantism."

"We have become eyewitnesses of how in the 21st century in a secular and supposedly legal and democratic country there actually occurred a trial of a church inquisition, where the rationale part of the verdict was based on the local council of Laodicea of the fourth century, the bishops' council of RPTs of 2011, a letter by a sacristan of the cathedral church of Christ the Savior, Archpriest Mikhail Riazantseva, and a memo on behavior in a church building, that is, on purely intrachurch documents and a priest's letter, ironically issued as the decision in the name of the Russian federation," the Tambov cleric writes in the open letter to the patriarch.

As a sign of protest the deacon requested that he be dismissed from his clerical rank.

Reaction by RPTs to these words came quickly. The deputy head of the chancellery of the Moscow patriarchate, Archimandrite Savva, called the words of the Tambov cleric "nonsense" and he explained: "There was no intrachurch trial which would have assessed this action."

Meanwhile the attorney for Ekaterina Samutsevich, Violetta Volkova, in conversation with "NG" noted:  "There certainly was pressure from RPTs during the events. Remember how many tough statements were made by representatives of the patriarchate at the beginning of the investigation. And appeals for mercy were heard only after the issuing of the verdict."

The trial delivered a severe blow to the image of the church, experts emphasize. The deputy to the general director of the Center of Political Technologies, Aleksei Makarkin, explained to "NG": "In and of itself this letter is not proof. Such letters are written by loners who have had their own problems and have nothing to lose. Usually clergy do not behave in this way." However, according to the expert, something else is important: "Even before the trial Patriarch Kirill said several times that the church needs to grow the circle of parishioners with the educated portion of society. And the clergy has tried to establish a dialogue with intellectuals, writers, artists, etc. Now, after this trial, when individual believers have proposed punishing the girls according to laws of the time of Ivan the Terrible, this segment of society has turned away from the church. And it is left with its former contingent—old women and poorly educated people."

In the blogosphere the author of the controversial letter has already been accused of plagiarism. In his Live Journal publicist Igor Petrov noted: "In the now famous letter 'of the unemployed cleric of Tambov diocese, Deacon Sergei Baranov' to Patriarch Kirill, whole paragraphs are copied from a column of an 'Echo of Moscow' commentator, Anton Orekha, of 17 August." "A stroller, wingover" and "sergeyhudiev" revealed that other fragments of the text are lifted from a post by Svetlana Goriacheva of 17 August and a program of Nikolai Svanidze of 17 August. (tr. by PDS, posted 21 August 2012)

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Most Russians oppose "Pussy Riot"

Support for "Pussy Riot" lowers ratings of the opposition
by Savelii Bezhin
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 21 August 2012

Last Friday the Khamovniki court of Moscow sentenced members of the "Pussy Riot" punk group who staged a shocking action in the church of Christ the Savior to two years incarceration in a penal colony of general regime. Not only the sentence but the whole trial of the group turned out to be noisy. Some politicians took advantage of the furor by speaking out in support of the punk group. However, in the opinion of experts, it is unlikely that they will manage to gain political capital in this situation.

"Pussy Riot" members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich were convicted of hooliganism on part 2 of article 213 of the Criminal Code of RF. "Members of the 'Pussy Riot' group without considering the consequences entered into a criminal conspiracy with the goal of committing a crude violation of public order, expressing clear disrespect for society," the sentence, which was published on 17 August, says.

The court sentenced Tolokonnikova, Alekhina, and Samutsevich to two years incarceration.

Judging by the results of public opinion surveys, the court's decision coincides with the position of a majority of Russian citizens.  According to Levada Center data, a substantial portion of respondents think that the trial of "Pussy Riot" punk group members proceeded "justly, objectively, and impartially." Forty-four percent of those questions expressed themselves in favor of this point of view. And only 18% stated that the sentence was carried out "on orders from above." Political scientist Pavel Danilin explains the agreement of public opinion with the court's decision by the fact that "the conservative majority is discontented with the imposition of ideas offensive to society."

The attitude of the public toward the "Pussy Riot" project was manifested fully when fans of the group, as a sign of support, last Friday placed variegated balaclavas on several Moscow monuments. Passersby considered this action desecration of the memory of the Great Patriotic War and they detained one of the activists and turned him over to the police.

Representatives of the expert community concur in the opinion that the sentence issued by the Khamovniki court seemed rather mild. Thus, for example, the head of the "For Morality" coalition, Ivan Diachenko, thinks: "More time was necessary in order for the convicts to realize their mistake and repent."

"More could have been given, but the main thing is that their deed by recognized as a crime. If they had been acquitted, such actions, directed at discrediting the church, would have continued. They committed an immoral act and they should bear the punishment in the form of real time, which they were given. The more so since they did not demonstrate any real repentance," agrees political scientist Pavel Danilin. We recall that recently in an interview on BBC activists declared that they do not regret their action and they are ready to repeat the "show" in the church of Christ the Savior.

A professor at VShE, Oleg Matveichev, notes that if "Pussy Riot" members had been tried on the "extremism" article, the term would have been far greater. For example, in 2009 a court in Orenburg sentenced to six years incarceration young people who drew a swastika on a synagogue. "That the 'Pussy Riot' members were tried for hooliganism and not on the 'extremism' article is further proof that the trial did not have a political hue." In his turn, Ivan Diachenko recalls that the organizers of the "punk prayer service," in their words, dubbed a musical line with a text containing attacks on the Russian authorities onto an already made video, and the "performance" itself originally did not have a political subtext. Group members were convicted for "going to hold forth in the church," thereby offending the feelings of believers, Diachenko emphasizes.

At the same time the expert is sure that the "Pussy Riot" action, which the group claims to be a work of art, does not have anything to do with real creativity, although support for the convicted feminists has been expressed by such stars of the world stage as Madonna and Paul McCartney. In Diachenko's opinion, representatives of western show business do not understand in principle what happened and why it was necessary to hold "Pussy Riot" members accountable. "There is nothing surprising in Madonna's support of them. In her time, in order to gain fame, she actually did the very same thing," Oleg Matveichev shared his opinion.

Often shocking behavior brings not only fame but also financial gain, on which, it seems, participants in the "Pussy Riot" project were seriously reckoning.  So Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's husband, an activist of the "War" art group, Petr Verzilov, recently expressed concern about instances of illegal use by manufacturers of souvenirs of the "Pussy Riot" brand, which, he says, has been officially registered and may be used only with the permission of the legal owners. "If someone now uses this trademark for personal gain and profits from the sale of products with the 'Pussy Riot' image, he will have to answer legally for the violation of patent law and for such a way of making money," the husband of the convicted feminist stated, estimating the size of "legal responsibility" at five million rubles.

In general, in Oleg Matveichev's opinion, however many supporters of "Pussy Riot" protested, it was beneficial to the ideological inspirers of the outrageous punk group that the girls got real time, since this increases the "capitalization" of the project and permits the conversion of the controversial fame into real money.

The president of the Institute of National Strategy, Mikhail Remizov, finds an ideological subtext in the conflict:  "From the self-presentation of the 'Pussy Riot' punk group it appears that they share the views of the radical feminist movement. They assume that civilization is based on repressive institutions: the state, church, and family. Therefore the philosophy of their activity is profoundly hostile to traditional values. This ideology is dangerous. In its time it had an extremely negative impact on western society."

However, experts think that this circumstance is not taken into account by politicians who are not able to get past the noisy scandal and have spoken out in defense of "Pussy Riot."  A docent of the department of political theory of MGIMOP, Yan Vaslavskii, notes that the Russian opposition lives in another reality, far from the worldview of the majority of Russians:  "In general, it seems that there are some two realities: a rather narrow reality for the opposition, for some groups of provocateurs who are concentrated mainly in the capital in the virtual environment and who try to prove something or conduct some actions, and the other reality which is relevant to the overwhelming majority of Russians." The expert is sure that if one goes outside the Moscow Ring into any settlement and asks what "Pussy Riot" is, people simply will not know what to say or their reaction will be extremely negative.

"The centuries-old Russian culture is extremely tightly bound with Orthodoxy, although we have other religions represented, and that is good. But in any case, the church of Christ the Savior is one of the symbols of Russia. It is understandable that such an antic in any case will evoke rejection by Russians. Our society is structured rather conservatively in the sense of respect for traditions and values," Vaslavskii argues. For this reason, in his opinion, the political forces that spoke out in support of the punk group do not have the least chance of increasing their influence. "Support of 'Pussy Riot' on the part of the opposition on the strategic level is not likely to facilitate the growth of their ratings. Possibly they will rack up points with some radical groups and morally unstable youth, but nothing more; political reality is much wider."

At the same time, experts note that such politicians, regardless of their ideological coloration, have clearly lost electoral preferences. Thus the vice-chairman of the Russian federation's Public Chamber's Commission for the Development of Civil Society and Relations with the Public Chambers of Component Elements of the Russian Federation, Irina Pleshcheva, calls attention to the fact that, according to data of Levada Center's survey, the 1% who are identified as supporters of "Pussy Riot" do not exceed the statistical error stated by investigators, 3.4%.

"Representatives of the Russian opposition counted on their appearance in the courtroom on the day of the handing down of the verdict to provide a free means of showing up on the screen in order to improve their sagging ratings. However they miscalculated. In linking their name with 'Pussy Riot,' they marginalized themselves even more. This was a shortsighted PR stunt," the general direction of the Institute  of Priority Regional Projects, Nikolai Mironov, agrees with his colleague.  (tr. by PDS, posted 21 August 2012)

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"Pussy Riot" persecution continues


Moscow police are continuing an active search "for two co-participants of the 'Pussy Riot' case," the press service of the MVD directorate for Moscow told the "BaltInfo" news agency on 20 August.

On 21 February, five persons took part in the action in the church of Christ the Savior, of whom three (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich) were convicted on 17 August by the Moscow Khamovniki court.

"With regard to two unidentified 'Pussy Riot' members, the case was divided into a separate process and at the present time an active search is being conducted," the MVD directorate declared.

In the preliminary investigation and during the trial "Pussy Riot" members refused to name these two members, and they also refused to discuss the participation of other women in the punk prayer service.

As is known, some members of the punk group, whose action is based on principles of anonymity, went abroad, but another part remained in Russia. A few days ago "Novaia gazeta" published an extended interview with members of the group who have remained at large. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2012)


Three incarcerated girls from "Pussy Riot" may face yet another criminal case, on the "extremism" article. This was reported in a broadcast by "Russian News Service" on 20 August by an attorney of one of the convicts, Violetta Volkova.

"Materials with respect to unidentified persons were separated out, as were other materials separated out regarding article 282, the extremism article. We expect the opening of yet another criminal case against the girls, or it has already been opened and we will learn about its investigation in the near future," she noted.

In Volkova's opinion, the members of the punk group who have been declared to be wanted face a yet more severe punishment than the girls who have already been convicted, because "they have been fleeing from justice" for a long time. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2012)

Interfax-Religiia, 20 August 2012

The head of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs [MID], Sergei Lavrov, thinks interference in the court's work on the "Pussy Riot" case is impermissible. "It is forbidden to interfere in the work of the court. One may personally agree or disagree, but interfering in the court's work is impermissible," said S. Lavrov on Monday at a press conference in Helsinki.

He also called for not stirring up hysteria surrounding the trial of the "Pussy Riot" case.

"I remind those who are trying to present the case as if our court did not make the decision independently, and that on the eve of the announcement of the verdict even the Russian president spoke in favor of showing leniency toward these girls, and that the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church took a similar position. In any event, nobody has set aside the judicial proceedings; there is the possibility of appeal so let's not make any hasty conclusions and certainly not stir up any hysteria," S. Lavrov declared at a press conference on the results of negotiations with his Finnish counterpart, Erkki Tuomioja.

Thus he reacted to a request for comment on statement that the sentence in the case was disproportionate to the deed of the "Pussy Riot" stunt.

At the same time, S. Lavrov remarked that in a number of European countries there exist sanctions, established by law, against blasphemy within church buildings.

"Speaking about whether the punishment was proportionate or disproportionate, I can be guided only by the facts of the case. In Germany, up to three years incarceration are provided for sacrilege and blasphemy in churches, in France—two years, in Austria—six months, in Finland, so far as I know, two years are provided for Blasphemy in churches," he noted. The head of MNID also recalled that recently in Israel, a man was sentenced to two years incarceration for bringing a severed pig's head onto the Temple Mount. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2012)

Interfax-Religiia, 20 August 2012

The Kuntsevo court of Moscow will begin hearings at the beginning of September on the substance of a law suit seeking compensation of 30 thousand rubles against "Pussy Riot" members, who were given real prison time for an action in the church of Christ the Savior.

"The hearings on the substance will begin 7 September," an attorney for the plaintiff, Aleksei Krestianov, told journalists.

According to the suit's declaration, a resident of Novosibirsk, Irina Ruzankina, suffered moral harm from the actions of the group's members in the church of Christ the Savior, which she valued at 30 thousand rubles.

The attorney noted that no medical certification of the moral and ethical damages she suffered was presented during the trial on the part of the declarer. Absence of such a document often become the reason for rejection of claims for compensation.

 As A. Krestianov stated, the girls may count on a profit after their action, since they are due payments for public performance of their composition. "'Pussy Riot' have earned large sums from their performance. There are still others wanting to file law suits who suffered moral damage. But for now we are waiting for a decision on the already existing declaration," he said.

The lawyer added that defenders of the punk group's members have not appeared at negotiations. "They were informed in the proper way. Under such conditions the law provides for conducting the trial in their absence. There are cases of rendering an absentee decision on suits without a defendant's participation," the attorney said.

According to A. Krestianov, representatives of the plaintiff suggested to the court that the trial be closed. "This question has been discussed and we do not know the position of the other side, so it is still impossible to resolve it. But in the trial personal information about the plaintiff will be heard, which we would not want to make public," he said, adding that on Monday evening his client intends to give a press conference in one of the restaurants of the capital. He explained that she will be there with security and thus she will be able to express her position safely. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2012)

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