Church turns other cheek for cheeky girl-band

The Pussy Riot feminist punk band that rushed into Moscow’s main cathedral to yell out blasphemous songs at the altar may have been slammed by many, but the Russian Orthodox Church has called for mercy towards the all-girl shock-seeking group.

­Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Church and Society Vsevolod Chaplin has urged the authorities not to send the young women to prison. He was quoted saying that although the punishment should be strict, charity needs to be shown as well.

Late last month, the four members of Pussy Riot ran into the Christ the Savior Cathedral in mini-dresses and masks and performed a song entitled Holy S**t – right at the altar.

Two members were subsequently tracked down and arrested. Police opened a criminal case on charges of hooliganism, which could result in up to seven years behind bars.

Both detained young women are mothers of young children, and their arrest has sparked a flurry of divided opinions.

Earlier this week, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova declared a hunger strike.
Several high-profile activists have shown support for the all-girl band. Among them is an ex-member of another scandal-courting team, the Voina art group, best known for their 65-meter phallus painted on a drawbridge in St. Petersburg opposite the Federal Security Service. Pyotr Verzilov is planning to hold a picket in support of Pussy Riot.

The protest is to take place in Moscow on March 8 – International Women’s Day – widely celebrated in the country. Activists will call on the authorities to “change pre-trial restrictions for Pussy Riot regardless of whether they took part in the act [at the cathedral] or not”.  At present, the young women are due to remain behind bars at least until April 24.

A special discussion “Why female artists get arrested” will also be held on 8 March at Marat Guelman’s gallery at the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art.

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