Russian police pursuing other members of Pussy Riot

Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:34pm EDT
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By Steve Gutterman and Alissa de Carbonnel

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police are hunting for more members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band, a spokeswoman said, signaling further pressure on the group despite an international outcry over jail terms for three women who protested in a church against Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president's critics condemned the court proceeding that yielded the two-year prison sentences on Friday as part of a clampdown on a protest movement and reminiscent of show trials of dissidents in the Soviet era.

Police said on Monday they were searching for other members of the group over the February protest at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, but had not yet identified the suspects.

They did not say how many people they were looking for, nor whether they faced arrest and charges. Five members of the anonymous feminist punk group stormed the church altar in brightly colored balaclavas, mismatched dresses and wielding an electric guitar, but only three were arrested and tried.

Although the search was launched before Friday's verdict, the determination of police to pursue other Pussy Riot members suggested the Kremlin would keep the heat on the band despite the furor over the punishment imposed on the three young women.

A lawyer for Pussy Riot, Mark Feigin, said he believed police knew the identity of the other two women and had video surveillance footage of them walking into the church.

He said the search handed police a tool to put pressure on any of Pussy Riot's 10 plus members continuing its protest. "If you put some unidentified persons on the wanted list, then you can arrest whoever you want in a balaclava," he said.

In an interview last week, other members of Pussy Riot - their faces hidden behind colorful masks like those worn during the "punk prayer" - said the trial had only strengthened their resolve to stage new protests.   Continued...

Members of the female punk band "Pussy Riot" (R-L) Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina sit in a glass-walled cage after a court hearing in Moscow, August 17, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov