Pussy Riot Faces 3 Years in Russian Prison; Madonna Is Not PleasedS

Madonna — in the middle of a world tour — has just arrived in Moscow, where she did, indeed, make some statements regarding the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, as some hoped she would.

The three women in the band (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29) were arrested in March and have been in jail ever since. Their crime? Staging a political protest — in the form of a "punk prayer" song at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral — against Vladimir Putin. They face up to seven years in prison; the charge is "hooliganism."

Yesterday, Madonna spoke with reporters who asked about Pussy Riot:

"I am against censorship and my whole career I always promoted freedom of expression, freedom of speech, so obviously I think what's happening to them is unfair and I hope that they do not... I hope they do not have to serve seven years in jail," Madonna told Western journalists in comments picked up by Russian media.
"That would be a tragedy," the US superstar said.

Of course, Madonna' support of the band is being viewed as anti-Russian Orthodox Church. A spokesman for a pro-Church group says: "It is not in our power to ban her, but we call on the authorities — who position themselves as Orthodox believers — to do so… This little singer is openly mocking our laws, our traditions and our culture." Her Madgesty, who is scheduled to perform in Moscow tonight and in St. Petersburg on Thursday, is not the only celebrity who has expressed support for Pussy Riot: the Who's Pete Townshend and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys have also urged the Russian government to release the women. She is, however, arguably more famous, and may draw more attention to the case.

Today, prosecutors asked the court for a three-year sentence instead of a 7-year stint. As the AP reports:

Prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov portrayed the request as lenient, saying it takes into account the fact that two of the defendants are young mothers and that they have good references.

And if they were not mothers? Just women who, for less than one minute, took over a church pulpit and did some "singing, high-kicking and dancing"? Seven years. In what is surely a super scary Russian prison. We should know the actual sentence by the end of the week; by then, Madonna will be on her way to Helsinki.

Madonna faces Russia protest for backing jailed punks [AFP]
Punk case: 3 year sentence? [Salon via AP]