01:51 - Source: CNN
Russian punk rock band on trial

Story highlights

Putin asks that band members not be judged "too harshly" for political performance

The band members went on trial this week on hooliganism charges

"Mother Mary please drive Putin away," the band screamed inside Christ Savior Cathedral

CNN —  

Russian President Vladimir Putin is asking a court to show leniency for three members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot, who are on trial in Moscow on hooliganism charges.

The Pussy Riot members went on trial Monday, charged after performing a song criticizing Putin in one of Moscow’s grandest cathedrals, Russia’s state news agency reported. The charge carries a potential seven-year sentence.

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“Mother Mary please drive Putin away,” the women screamed in February inside the Christ Savior Cathedral, their faces covered in neon masks.

While Putin criticized their performance, he said Thursday, “Still, I do not think they should be judged too harshly for that,” RIA Novosti reported. He added that he hoped the court makes “the right decision.”

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Pussy Riot specializes in sudden, often illegal public performances, including one in Moscow’s Red Square.

The group’s prayer was inspired by their anger about the relationship between the Russian government and the Orthodox Church, according to the band’s manager, who is married to one of the suspects.

An Orthodox church leader has been widely reported as saying Putin’s years in power have been a miracle from God.

The band’s behavior in one of Russia’s most sacred cathedrals has outraged many of the country’s faithful.

“This is a disgusting thing to do,” one woman told CNN.

“They should go to jail,” said another. “A year or two. Let them think about their behavior.”

But even some of those who were offended believe the women should not be in jail.

“If necessary, God will punish them,” one man said. “It must be not be cruel punishment.”