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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 August 2012

Draconian sentences for Pussy Riot protest will backfire on Putin

The two-year prison sentences for 'hooliganism' handed down to three members of Pussy Riot in Russia has triggered a storm of international protests and underlined the dictatorial regime of president Vladimir Putin. Rob Jones in Moscow reports.

It would have been difficult to predict a year ago that a group of "third generation feminist punk rockers" calling themselves Pussy Riot and dressed in brightly coloured balaclavas and woolly stockings would not only become a symbol of the rapidly growing opposition to Putin but also the subject of his vindictive wrath.

Three members of the group were arrested in February following a performance of their explicitly anti-Putin, anti-church hierarchy "punk-prayer" on the altar of Moscow's main orthodox cathedral.

Their performance enraged the ruling elite who demanded firm action against these women.

The Cathedral itself symbolises all that is rotten about the new capitalist Russia - built in the mid-1990s, it has been surrounded by corruption scandals. Today, only 7% of the cathedral is used for religious services, the rest is home to various commercial activities.

But this is of little concern to the Russian Orthodox church. According to the church's lawyer, Pussy Riot represents some form of "higher power, trying to destroy the Russian Orthodox church. These are the same forces behind the 11 September terrorist actions in the USA - Satan!"

Vsevolod Chaplin, the official spokesman of the Church, is known for his reactionary and violent beliefs. He believes it is the moral duty of any Christian to kill as many Bolsheviks as possible.

It is not surprising that the church is often seen side by side with fascists in protests against abortion rights and against rights for women and the LGBT community.

Not one of the official parliamentary parties has spoken out against this vicious campaign against Pussy Riot. At the start of the trial, Genaddy Zyuganov, leader of Russia's so called Communist Party, issued a press statement which "firmly rejected this latest anti-orthodox provocation".

The three members of Pussy Riot were denied a fair trial. The judge made comments against them, the prosecution submitted another 200 pages of evidence without giving their lawyers time to read it. Witnesses wanting to speak in support of the group were rejected by the judge.

The case against Pussy Riot however is not an isolated case. It comes against a wave of other arrests associated with the growing protest movement.

However, the regime is finding itself backed into a corner over these arrests and which have led to huge international protests. But far more worrying for the regime is that the whole population is beginning to rapidly change its outlook. Initially, the vast majority of Russian society, hearing the outright condemnation from all official quarters, supported the government's actions against the group. The latest opinion poll, however show that a majority of Muscovites already think that the regime has gone too far.

This is in line with other polls that show that up to 20% of Russians (that's about 30 million people) are prepared to actively protest against the government.

The CWI in Russia calls for the immediate release of Pussy Riot and all those arrested around the recent opposition protests and for all charges to be dropped. There should be genuine freedom of speech and the immediate separation of the Russian orthodox church from the state at all levels.

The Putin regime should go, with the convening of a democratic constituent assembly made up of representatives from the workplaces, educational institutes and residential areas to decide what forms of government are best for Russia.

There should be established a mass workers' party with a socialist programme prepared to fight for political power and establish a new, socialist society free from capitalism and the bureaucrats and priests who serve its interests.

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