Punk rockers perform anti-Putin protests

Associated Press
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, centre, a member of feminist punk group Pussy Riot is escorted to a court room in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Thursday criticized the feminist punk rockers facing trial for performing a "punk prayer" against him at Moscow's main cathedral, but said that a punishment for them shouldn't be too severe. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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MOSCOW (AP) — Three feminist punk rockers in Russia may face years in prison for barging into Moscow's main cathedral to sing a song against Vladimir Putin as he set out to reclaim the presidency.

Wearing ski masks and miniskirts in garish colors, the Pussy Riot band members danced and high-kicked while belting out this refrain:

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away.

Put Putin away, put Putin away.

The case has caused international outrage and split Russian society. Some say the women deserve to be punished for desecrating the Russian Orthodox Church and offending believers, while others insist that the women — who have already been in jail for five months — are being unfairly punished for their political beliefs.

The three women, all in their 20s, said their goal was to express their resentment over the church's open support for Putin's rule.

Pussy Riot first gained notoriety during the height of this winter's anti-Putin protests, when a video of their performance on Red Square became an Internet hit. Standing on top of a stone platform once used for reading out the czar's decrees, the women sang a song called "Putin Got Scared."

The refrain goes like this:

Revolt in Russia — the charisma of protest

Revolt in Russia — Putin got scared

Revolt in Russia — We exist!

Revolt in Russia — Riot! Riot!

As the trial nears the end, prosecutors on Tuesday called for three-year prison sentences, which they said was lenient because the hooliganism charges they face carry a maximum sentence of seven years. They said they took into account that two of the women have young children and that they have good character references.

Putin has criticized the punk rockers, but said their punishment shouldn't be "too severe." Speaking during a visit to the London Olympics last week, Putin suggested that the women should be grateful they didn't try such a stunt in Russia's Caucasus, which is predominantly Muslim.

"If they had desecrated some Islamic holy site, we wouldn't even have had time to take them into custody," Putin said.

Putin's comments triggered speculation that the Kremlin was trying to find a way to resolve the case without appearing weak or further angering either side.

The case against the three women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich — wrapped up on Wednesday. The judge said she will issue a verdict next week, on Aug. 17.

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