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ShowTrial Girls

Pussy Riot's unfair trial just the tip of the iceberg in the former USSR

We are freer than those who are prosecuting us. We can say everything we want, and they have their mouths shut, and are puppets." - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Pussy Riot member.

Russian riot punks Pussy Riot are currently on trial in Moscow. Since SchNEWS reported on them back in March they've become something of a worldwide cause celebre, attracting attention from across the political spectrum as the prime example of neo-Stalinist brutality in Putin's Russia. Even the Material Girl herself has pledged her support for their cause (don't get too excited though, the last thing Madonna supported was Israeli control of archaeological sites in the West Bank, but we digress).

Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich face up to three years for 'hooliganism' after their anti-Putin themed 'punk prayer' in Moscow's Orthodox cathederal.

The trial has become a test for Putin's image abroad- will he play the benevolent leader for the benefit of foreign audiences and grant the trio a pardon or reduced sentence, or will he show himself to be a man of steel and send a message to anti authoritarians in Russia that even symbolic resistance is not to be tolerated?

The women have complained of torture in prison- lack of sleep and food during their confinement. It's a moot point whether Pussy Riot have been singled out for maltreatment- torture and human rights violations are routine in Russian jails, in fact conditions are reported to be worse than during the Soviet era.

Sergei Udaltsov, Moscovian leader of the Left Front movement, has been arrested over a dozen times in Moscow during peaceful anti-government protests. He was repeatedly found guilty of administrative offences such as “disobeying lawful demands of police officers”, and ended the year in detention following his arrest on 4 December for participating in a post-election protest.

In Russia's client states (aka the former USSR), things are even more dire. In Mangistau, Kazakhstan twelve oil workers were jailed after thousands demonstrated for for better pay and conditions during a bitter 7 months strike in Kazakhstan's western province. All twelve have had their appeals for release refused.

Scores were killed and wounded in the town of Zhanaozen (reported by us here last December) after security forces opened fire on demonstrators, making sure to sever communications to the outside world first. Some of those survivors are now being persecuted for their alleged part in the demonstrations, charged with 'inciting social conflict'. However, distance and a lack of PR-friendly stunts, not to mention the presence of Western oil companies, have conspired to keep the plight of oppressed Kazakhs out of the media spotlight.

The show-trial of three members of a punk band has come to symbolise repression in Putin's Russia, but even outside of the warzones and areas of low intensity conflict such as Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia (where wholesale killing is still the norm) torture, detention without trial and murder by the state are par for the course.


Pussy Riot in the dock
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Twitter: @SchNEWS