It is certainly an embarrassing day for Russia and freedom of speech. Any notion that Russia has progressed to a Democracy has clearly taken a major step backward. The punk band Pussy Riot staged a protest in a Catholic church in Moscow sometime back. They disrupted a ceremony of some sort. Sure, that is pretty stupid and should be punished with a fine or a night or two in jail. Well, three of the band members have already been jailed for weeks and today were sentenced to 2 years of jail being found guilty of hooliganism. Yikes. Holy disproportionate over reaction. Putin politics sounds a lot like Stalin politics… well no, I guess they haven’t been put to death, … yet. Pretty shocked that the massive uber-macho Putin feels so threatened by a girl band. Hmmpt. So far there has been worldwide outrage by this absurd sentence. To quote the band member Ekaterina ‘[the] state is not able to hide the repressive nature of the judicial process’.
International condemnation was quick to follow:
- Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said: ‘The United States is disappointed by the verdict, including the disproportionate sentences that were granted.’
- Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has expressed concern over the two year prison sentences given to the three singers in the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, for singing a protest song in a church. Bildt writes on Twitter: ‘Even the Human Rights Commissioner of Russia deems the prison sentence for Pussy Riot unfair and calls for it to be appealed. Easy to agree.’
- Alistair Burt, UK foreign minister, said the sentence was a ‘disproportionate response to an expression of political belief’, while Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief, said she was ‘deeply disappointed’ with the verdict.
- International celebrities including Sir Paul McCartney and Madonna had already criticised the prosecution. They were followed by demonstrations and gatherings in support of the women in at least 40 cities worldwide on Friday, including New York, London and Paris.
- The Orthodox Church issued a statement urging Russian authorities to show the women mercy ‘within the law’ but it appeared too late for such an appeal after senior priests had earlier lustily condemned the group.
- Amnesty International condemned the sentences, which a spokeswoman said showed ‘that the Russian authorities will stop at no end to suppress dissent and stifle civil society.’
- In a closing statement, Ms. Tolokonnikova [of the band], the most outspoken of the defendants, railed against repression in Russia. ‘To my deepest regret, this mock trial is close to the standards of the Stalinist troikas,’ she said. She added, ‘In any event, it is a form of civil action in circumstances where basic human rights, civil and political freedoms are suppressed.’
I’m starting to worry about the likelihood of hockey this fall. It seems the NHL and the NHLPA are far apart from an agreement. An agreement they need to reach by the 15th of September or the players will be locked out. I’m most concerned about the ramification of a lockout on smaller market teams in the States where support is already marginal. Sigh…. Happy Canada pulled off a late win in the Russia/Canada series rematch from 1972… It was very close… it could easily have been a Russian win. After today I’m a little happier we beat their commie asses.