Pussy Riot, the all-female group whose members could face jail time over a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s largest cathedral, have said the country’s powerful Orthodox Church was used as a “weapon” in President-elect Vladimir Putin’s election campaign.
“We were deeply saddened that you allowed the Church to become a weapon in a dirty election campaign and urged the faithful to vote for a man who is as far as can be from God’s truth,” Pussy Riot said in a blog post.
“You cannot believe in an earthly tsar if his deeds contradict those values for which the Heavenly Tsar was crucified,” the group also said.
The blog was a response to comments on Saturday by Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill, who called the group “the devil” and accused them of “desecrating” the Christ the Savior Cathedral.
Five members of Pussy Riot, clad in bright balaclavas, knelt and crossed themselves as they sang an acapella version of a song entitled “Holy Sh*t” at the cathedral on February 21. The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”
The group said the performance was a response to the patriarch’s vocal support for Putin in the run-up to his March 4 election victory. The patriarch also advised believers to stay at home and “pray” instead of going on this winter’s anti-government rallies.
Putin’s press secretary has said the president-elect reacted “negatively” when told of the group’s protest in the cathedral.
Two suspected members of the group, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were arrested the day before Putin’s election victory. They were both denied bail and remanded in custody until their April 24 trial. Both have young children. A third suspect, Irina Lokteva, was detained in mid-March. All members of the group could face up to seven years behind bars if found guilty of hooliganism charges.
A number of religious figures have urged leniency for Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, including Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who is responsible for relations between the society and the Orthodox Church.
But Patriarch Kirill hit out at those who he said seek to "justify and downplay this sacrilege" in his address. "My heart breaks from bitterness that amongst these people there are those who call themselves Orthodox."
Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for “Revolt in Russia!” and chanting “Putin’s got scared” before being detained by police.