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Attorney appeals jail sentences for punk rockers in Russia

APTOPIX-Russia-Punks-vs-Putin

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, Yekaterina Samutsevich, left, and Maria Alekhina, center, members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot seen behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia, on Aug. 17.

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MOSCOW — Three members of the Pussy Riot punk band have appealed a court’s decision to jail them for two years for their “punk prayer” against Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral, their lawyer said Monday.

The stunt angered Russia’s dominant Orthodox Church, but the women’s trial and punishment also upset human rights activists and others who accused the Kremlin and the Church of orchestrating the trial amid a crackdown on Putin’s critics.

Protests supporting the women have been held in many countries, and celebrities such as Paul McCartney have called for their release.

The women were arrested and put on trial after their unauthorized performance at Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in February, during which they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Putin. The Russian leader faces growing opposition, and he has increasingly cracked down on critics since returning to the presidency in May.

The women were sentenced on Aug. 17, and their lawyer Violetta Volkova said the appeal was submitted to the Khamovniki district court on Monday. A decision is expected within 10 days. Meanwhile, the band has said that at least two of its members have fled Russia to avoid arrest.

Also Monday, Orthodox Church leaders condemned the chopping down of wooden crosses in Russia and neighboring Ukraine by people claiming to support Pussy Riot.

In mid-August, the controversial Ukrainian group Femen, whose topless members stage pranks to support women’s rights, cut down a massive Orthodox cross in Kiev to protest the band members’ conviction. Four more crosses were cut down in the northern Russian region of Archangelsk and the Urals region of Chelyabinsk over the weekend.

Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said that the vandals “taunt” Russian culture and history.

Pussy Riot manager Pyotr Verzilov said last week that the band disapproved of damaging crosses.

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