Putin weighs into punk trial after judo gold
By Maria Golovnina and Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) - Fresh from cheering a Russian judo star to a gold medal at the Olympic Games, President Vladimir Putin urged leniency on Thursday for members of a female punk band on trial for protesting against him at the altar of a Moscow cathedral.
Putin told Interfax news agency that there was "nothing good" about the protest by the band Pussy Riot, which outraged many Russian Orthodox believers on the eve of Putin's latest presidential election win.
"Nonetheless, I don't think that they should be judged so harshly for this," Interfax news agency quoted Putin as saying.
"I hope the court will come out with the right decision, a well-founded one," Putin was quoted as saying.
Such comments from Russia's most powerful man are likely to ensure that the women's band do not get long prison sentences, though he did not define what he meant by "harshly".
Putin, who has ruled Russia since the turn of the century, is facing international criticism for trying to silence dissent.
He was speaking after watching fellow countryman Tagir Khaibulaev win Russia's third judo gold of the London Games, a victory that prompted Putin to leap to his feet in delight.
At 45 minutes of talks at Downing Street, for which Putin put in an unusually punctual appearance, Prime Minister David Cameron raised the issues of Syria and the fate of Pussy Riot. Continued...