Russian police detained 13 people last night who were demonstrating outside a court hearing for punk group Pussy Riot, who were arrested for staging a protest against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Reuters reports.
The court met to decide whether to extend the detention of three members of the band – Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich – who were arrested following an impromptu performance at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral, where they sang a song called ‘Holy Shit’ as a protest against the Orthodox Christian’s church alleged support for Putin.
Although Putin regained power in the last Russian election, the verdict has been marred by accusations of fraud by his competitors.
Yesterday night about 60 of the group’s supporters chanted “Freedom! Freedom!” outside the Moscow courthouse, with some releasing coloured balloons with Pussy Riot’s trademark masks drawn on them.
The scuffle broke out when a Russian Orthodox bystander threw an egg at the husband of one of the three detained band members. Reports say at least 13 people were dragged into police vans.
The members of Pussy Riot could face seven years in jail on hooliganism charges but deny taking part in the protest in February. No date has been set for their trial but the court is expected to extend their pre-trial detention.
Shortly before their arrest, members of Pussy Riot spoke to NME, calling Putin’s reaction to their church protest “childish”.
“We knew what the political situation was but now we’re personally feeling the full force of Putin’s Kafka-esque machine,” they said. “The state’s policy is based on a minimum of critical thinking and on a maximum of spite, and a desire to get even with those who don’t please it.”
Earlier this month Amnesty International called for the release of band members, arging that they were “prisoners of conscience” and accused the Russian government of punishing them for the “broader political context” of their actions, rather than the actions themselves.