The case of the three members of the band Pussy Riot has deeply divided Russia, pitting advocates of openness against the forces of order and the powerful Russian Orthodox Church. The three had been held in jail for more than four months without a single court hearing.
The February stunt, two weeks before the election that returned Putin to the presidency, was designed to offend. Five members of Pussy Riot — wearing brightly colored balaclavas and miniskirts — briefly took over the pulpit at Christ The Savior Cathedral, chanting “Mother Mary, drive Putin away” and high-kicking cancan-style.
What happened after security guards seized the five was extraordinary — even for a country whose leaders have shown little patience for protest. Three of the band members, two of whom have young children, were thrown into jail and face charges of hooliganism that could bring them seven years if convicted.