Moscow on Wednesday lashed out at the West over its criticism of the Pussy Riot case and the lack of freedom of artistic expression in Russia.
Three punk group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were jailed on August 17 over a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s largest cathedral in a trial that attracted both mass media attention and sharp international criticism.
Commenting on the campaign in defense of the group, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said it was not an issue of “artistic performance.”
“Our opponents ignore the fact that the punk group’s action was insulting to millions of Orthodox [Christian] believers, as well as representatives of other faiths, who adhere to traditional moral values,” he said.
He also dismissed the charges of persecution for artistic expression, citing the case of the Voina guerilla art group, which was awarded a state prize in the “innovation category” last year for “a rather controversial piece of art.”
“So the claims of persecution over freedom of artistic expression are totally groundless,” he concluded.
An edited clip of Pussy Riot’s protest posted online showed the group alternately high-kicking and crossing themselves at the altar of the Christ the Savior Cathedral, the accompanying “Holy S**t” song urging the Virgin Mary to “drive out” President Vladimir Putin and railing against the powerful Orthodox Church’s pre-election support for the former KGB officer.