Topic: Punk Group Pussy Riot Case
MOSCOW, August 17 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti)
- Pussy Riot Verdict Slammed at U.S. Demo
- Pussy Riot Jailed for Two Years
- Russian Orthodox Church Asks for Mercy for Pussy Riot
- Pussy Riot Sentenced to Two Years in Jail
- Pussy Riot Found Guilty Over Punk Prayer Stunt
The jailing of Pussy Riot members will damage the Kremlin’s reputation in the West, but would not bring about a serious crisis in Russia’s relations with the outside world, political pundits said on Friday.
Domestically, the trial will add to the building resentment against the reign of President Vladimir Putin, but won’t incite the peaceful street protests that are fizzling out in the absence of dialogue with the government, experts said.
“They are jailing the girls to intimidate all other protesters,” said independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin. “The country is grinding to a halt in its [political] development, like Iran or Belarus.”
On Friday, three members of the feminist art collective Pussy Riot were jailed for two years over an anti-Kremlin “punk prayer” they performed in an Orthodox Christian cathedral in February, shortly after church head Patriarch Kirill endorsed Putin’s presidential bid.
Group members insisted their balaclava-ed performance was a political protest, but were convicted for inciting religious hatred. Their supporters said the verdict was retribution from Putin, enraged at the jab at his alliance with the church.
The case garnered almost unprecedented international exposure for Russia, with numerous Western officials, including the U.S. State Department, questioning the trial’s underlying motivations, and many public figures, including Madonna, Paul McCartney and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, speaking out in support of Pussy Riot. Amnesty International has recognized the jailed group members as “prisoners of conscience.”
The World Is Laughing
The Pussy Riot trial will sour relations with the West, especially given the presidential campaign in the United States, said Yevgeny Minchenko, the head of the International Institute for Political Expertise, a Moscow-based think-tank.
The story is likely to reflect on the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, who could face the unpleasant choice of either dealing with criticism over what his opponents call his overly soft stance on Russia or antagonizing the Kremlin, Minchenko said.
However, Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center said that the trial, while discrediting the Russian leadership, will not result in serious changes of the West’s policy toward Moscow.
“Everybody’s laughing at us,” Malashenko said. “But it’s just an isolated incident that will be forgotten in a week.”
He was echoed by Pavel Salin of the Center for Political Assessment, who said the Kremlin knows how to efficiently deal with Western political elites while mostly ignoring the public opinion in the EU and the United States.
Too Tired for Protest
The case confirms a major ideological shift within the Kremlin, which is now relying on religion, not the public, for political endorsement, Oreshkin said.
The majority of Russians will not support the shift in the long run, but the strategy can work for the next several years because “the heavenly mandate” allows the Kremlin to suppress public protests without harming its legitimacy in its own eyes, he said.
The current protest movement needs to reinvent itself in order to succeed, Oreshkin said. A string of mass anti-Putin rallies has taken place in Moscow since December, drawing tens of thousands each, but the government ignored most of the protesters’ demands while tightening the screws on political legislation.
Other analysts agreed that the Pussy Riot trial will give no significant boost to the protests, though Minchenko pointed out that it could usher in a successful anti-clerical political party for the first time since the Soviet Union’s demise. The church enjoyed almost universal respect in post-Soviet Russia, but the Pussy Riot trial polarized the country, including many believers who think the church should stay away from politics.
“Street protests are over,” Oreshkin said. “Instead, people will just emigrate.”
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