Pussy Riot Behind Bars - Rallying Point for Russian Opposition
Two years behind bars - that was the verdict handed down to the members of the punk band Pussy Riot. The three women were jailed for storming a Moscow cathedral and staging a one-minute protest prayer against Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The verdict drew worldwide criticism and even Russia itself is at odds over the jailing.
The prominent Russian activist and blogger, Alexei Navalny, called on the West to slap sanctions on the Putin regime in response. He said the Russian president and his inner circle can't be ousted via the ballot box because it's they who decide where the votes go.
On his Facebook page, opposition member and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov told the Russian people not to give up hope, and encouraged them to continue their protests. "Don't stop the protests," he wrote. "It is a long battle...this verdict is a crime and has shown the true colors of the Putin regime."
Pussy Riot, meanwhile, has also refused to be phased by its two-year prison sentence. The band has defiantly released a new song slamming the Russian president, called “Putin Lights Up the Fires.”
So has the band's imprisonment given a new lease of life to the opposition, or has the fear of suffering a similar fate stifled the protest movement? Is Russia about to go through a "tyranny test" as the Russian online newspaper gazeta.ru fears? How far will Putin go to muzzle opposition voices, and what role will the Russian Orthodox Church just sit by and watch? Does Russia still have an independent judiciary system, or is Putin in the driving seat there too? Is he, as Garry Kasparov claims, a dictator who pays no attention to the laws of the land?
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Lucian Kim – He studied languages and geography at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and holds a master’s degree in Nationalism Studies from Central European University in Budapest. He was the Berlin correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor from 1996 to 2002 and moved to Russia in 2003, where he worked as an editor for The Moscow Times and a correspondent for Bloomberg News. He has reported on all but one of the major anti-government demonstrations in Moscow on his blog, "lucian in moscow" (http://www.luciankim.com/blogs/lucian-in-moscow/) and is writing a book on the Russian protest movement.
Michael Stürmer – has been the senior correspondent at the German daily "Die Welt" since 1989. Born in Kassel in 1938, Stürmer studied History, Philosophy and Languages in London, Berlin and Marburg. He is also Professor of Modern History at the University of Erlangen.
Sergey Lagodinsky – was born in Russia and emigrated to Germany in 1993. He is a fellow with the Global Public Policy Institute, Berlin. Lagodinsky's areas of expertise include transatlantic relations, global security, and international law. He is a frequent guest and commentator on RTVi (a world wide Russian speaking TV network). Today he is working for the Böll-Stiftung at Berlin.