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You're reading: Pussy Riot: Three profiles in Russian protest

MOSCOW - Three women from the Pussy Riot punk protest group who performed an anti-Kremlin "prayer" at Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedral in February were convicted on Friday of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and jailed for two years.

Below are brief biographical details:

“THE PHILOSOPHER”

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22. With her dark bobbed hair, big eyes and full lips, her photogenic appearance has made her the face of Pussy Riot in the Western media.

Her antics as part of high-profile street-art collective Voina (War) have made her a focus of attention in the Russian media. Many have featured pictures of her having public sex with her husband Pyotr Verzilov while she was pregnant in 2008. The event, staged with other couples at Moscow’s Zoological Museum, was intended as a provocative protest against the election to the presidency of Putin’s protege Dmitry Medvedev.

Tolokonnikova was in her final year of philosophy studies at the prestigious Moscow State University when she was arrested. Her daughter is now aged four.

Court officials have tried to portray her as a bad influence on the other women, asking witnesses how the others’ behaviour had changed after they met Tolokonnikova.

“THE ARTIST”

Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, who studied art and is an avid reader of philosophy, kept a low profile throughout the court proceedings, breaking her silence only to give long, thoughtful responses to the judge’s questions.

She graduated top of her class at Moscow’s well-regarded Rodchenko School of Photography and Multimedia. It was during her time as a student that she met Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Before she was arrested and jailed in March, Samutsevich lived with her father, Stanislav, who has appeared repeatedly at the courtroom proceedings. He has told lawyers that he brought her up in accordance with Russian traditions.

Samutsevich has given some of the clearest accounts as to why the Church was chosen as a target in their protest, saying: “Christ the Saviour Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of the authorities.”

She has spent time in prison reading works by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek and French thinker Michel Foucault.

“THE WRITER”

Maria Alyokhina, 24, a fourth-year student at the Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing in Moscow, has a background in humanitarian volunteering and environmental activism with Greenpeace Russia. Her five-year-old son has been looked after by relatives during her time in pre-trial detention.

Alyokhina was often vocal during the women’s trial, at times arguing with the judge and cross-examining witnesses.

She has said she considers herself a Christian, but has criticised the Orthodox Church for its harsh response to the protest in the cathedral: “I thought the Church loved all its children,” she said. “But it seems the Church loves only those children who believe in Putin.”

Her mother has been quoted saying she brings Alyokhina, a vegetarian, fruit and nuts to keep her going in jail.

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