Anti-Putin punk rockers to remain in jail
Moscow - A Russian court ordered two female punk rockers to remain in jail on Wednesday for praying to the Virgin Mary to deliver the nation from Vladimir Putin in a spontaneous performance in the country's main Orthodox cathedral.
Five members of the band Pussy Riot - wearing brightly coloured homemade ski masks and miniskirts - briefly seized the pulpit of Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in late February to chant "Mother Mary, drive Putin away".
In less than a minute, the women were rounded up by security guards. Two of them were later arrested and face up to seven years in jail on charges of hooliganism.
Putin, who won a third presidential term in a March 4 election, described the performance as "unpleasant for all believers" and expressed hope that it would not be repeated.
The Russian Orthodox Church said the women deserve "fair justice" for the "blasphemous" performance at the cathedral, although thousands of believers signed a petition urging the church to forgive the band.
Moscow City Court spokesperson Anna Usacheva said on Wednesday that Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will remain in custody until a hearing in late April. She said the other performers also will be identified and arrested.
Attorneys for the arrested band members said the two women should be released because they have young children. The women have declared a hunger strike to protest their continued detention, the attorneys said.
The band gained notoriety in January for performing an anti-Putin song on Red Square from a spot used in czarist Russia for announcing government decrees. A video of the performance became an internet hit.