Russian punk band torches Putin portrait in video, Walesa weighs in

Fri Sep 7, 2012 1:45pm EDT
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian opposition punk band Pussy Riot have released a new video in which they set fire to a portrait of President Vladimir Putin in a stunt likely to anger the Kremlin.

Three of the band's members - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - were last month given two-year jail sentences each after storming the altar of Moscow's main cathedral and staging a "punk prayer", calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

Their jail sentences - for the crime of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred - drew sharp international criticism with opposition groups saying the case was part of a Kremlin crackdown on dissent.

In August, the all-female collective said that two other band members who had taken part in the same cathedral protest had fled the country - the whereabouts of the roughly dozen other members who did not take part in the stunt is unknown.

In the new video, which was released on the Internet and featured three anonymous band members who were performing on behalf of their jailed friends, women donning balaclavas - the band's trademark - are shown abseiling down the facade of an abandoned or under construction building.

A giant white banner depicting a guitar-wielding woman in a red miniskirt with the caption "Pussy Riot" is unfurled on the building's facade and, beneath it, smaller cardboard portraits of Putin and of Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, are shown hanging.

"We've been fighting for the right to sing, to think, to criticize. To be musicians and artists, ready to do everything to change our country, no matter the risks. We go on with our musical fight in Russia and our country is dominated by an evil man," female voices, speaking in English, exclaim in turns.

The women are then shown setting off fluorescent flares thanking Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other musicians for speaking out in their cause.

The camera then pans to a shot of the portrait of Putin in flames.   Continued...