President Vladimir Putin’s cruel tyranny is driven by paranoia
The Pussy Riot trial shows the Russian regime hardening its approach to dissent
Apologists for the Kremlin are struggling. The Russian regime’s dogged defence of the blood-drenched Syrian dictatorship, and its persecution of the Pussy Riot musicians for their stunt in Moscow’s main cathedral, display its nastiest hallmark: support for repression at home and abroad.
Mr Putin’s return to power has eclipsed the liberal-sounding talk of his predecessor as president, Dmitry Medvedev. Russia’s leader has in recent weeks signed laws that criminalise defamation, introduce £6,000 fines for participants in unauthorised demonstrations, require non-profit outfits financed by grants from abroad to label themselves as “foreign agents”, and create a new blacklist of “harmful” internet sites.
Now comes the prosecution of Pussy Riot, a bunch of feminist performance artists made famous by their imprisonment and show trial. Their “crime” was to record a brief mime show at the altar of the cathedral of Christ the Saviour. They then added anti-Putin “music” (featuring scatological and blasphemous slogans) to suggest that they had actually held a concert there.
Many might find that in bad taste and would accept that police can arrest those using a holy place for political protest. But the three women on trial (who all deny involvement) have been in custody since March. They face up to seven years in prison on a charge of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility”. It all smacks of a grotesque official over-reaction and the growing and sinister influence of the Orthodox hierarchy. ...