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Editorial: an epistle of salvation

27.06.12 22:46    By Gazeta.ru ediotorial

Editorial: an epistle of salvation

Photo: pussy-riot.livejournal.com


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A recent written plea from Russian celebrities to the Higher court asking to free Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich is probably the last chance for the authorities to preserve face and to exit this story that has become a symbol for the obscure, senseless and lawless cruelty.

Already more than 120 cultural celebrities have signed a letter asking for the members of Pussy Riot art group to be freed.  "We think that Pussy Riot hasn't committed a crime. The girls didn't kill or rob anyone, they weren't violent, didn't destroy or steal other's property. Russia is a secular state, and no anti-clerical actions, if they are not described in the criminal code are reason for criminal persecution," the letter says. Until the participants in the punk-prayer are behind bars, the authors are sure "the atmosphere of intolerance will grow in society and that bring people towards a schism and radicalization."

It is hard not to agree with this opinion, especially due to the huge resonance of this story, which in any other secular state would be, at most, a one-day hit on YouTube.
The criminal persecution of the punk-prayer participants looks like a medieval witch-hunt. It is even more scandalous in a political sense because the phrase the girls shouted in the Christ the Savior cathedral was against Vladimir Putin "Mother of God, banish Putin!" That makes the president, who has not yet said anything about Pussy Riot, a part of the persecution of young women with little children. In the end, apart from the poisoning of the already bad political atmosphere in Russia, the case has brought a public schism among the orthodox parishioners and put in doubt the christian mercy of Russian Orthodox Church bishops. 

The church has preferred the punishing sword of the secular state to its ministerial teaching so that they could square accounts with girls who didn't commit any violence against the priests or parishioners.

The timing of the celebrities' letter – straight after the Putin's visit to Israel, where he went to all the main holy places of the Christians – gives the authorities an additional moral chance to end this shameful story. Moreover, we need to pay attention to the first hundred of the undersigned (now thousands joined them on the radio Echo Moscow internet page.) Among the authors of the letter to the Higher Court, are not only celebrities with clearly articulated civic stance, like writer Grigory Chkhartishvili, rock-musician Yuri Shevchuk or actress Lia Akhedjakova. The letter was signed by actress Chulpan Hamatova, who was Putin's representative during the election, Evgeny Mironov, a known loyal supporter of the authorities, along with United Russia member Fyodor Bondarchuk and very apolitical musicians – Boris Grebenschikov, Valery Meladze, and Roma "The Beast".

These people might even give us reason to suspect the authorities themselves are involved in writing this letter.

In the end, the Kremlin has enough experience in creating letters like this one, although earlier such writings endorsed the government's actions. We can remember the notorious celebrity letter supporting the second sentencing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, after which many signers denounced their participation. 

This time the situation is different. The fact that such pillars of Russian culture like actor Sergei Yursky, comedy writer Mikhail Zhvanetsky, directors Eldar Ryazanov and Andrei Smirnov all give this document the status of a kind of a consensual document of Russian cultural elite. 

Anyway, the letter addressed to the Higher court and the Moscow city court has caused a reaction that doesn't give cause for optimism. "This letter was received by the court and it has been registered. But it would be incorrect and illegal to meddle with the course of the investigation and the activities of the lower courts as later, the Higher court may have to consider the case. This may look like the pressure from our side," said the head of the Higher court press service Pavel Odintsov. 

He also said that there are stages of any trial including cassation and supervision, and to say something about the case before it was heard by the court is impossible for the Higher court. At the same time no court has considered the calls from the Russian Orthodox Church to punish Pussy Riot members most severely to be pressure from the other side.


 

In any case, this letter has a chance to become a turning point in what may be the largest legal and political scandal since the beginning of Vladimir Putin's third term.

But for that, the authorities will have to keep the laws in mind at last, and listen to the voice of reason in order to understand that ceasing the persecution of Pussy Riot is not a concession to 'Civic Society' so hated by the Kremlin, neither is it a show of weakness, but the only legal and right decision. All the more so since it is impossible not to see the political cost of this case for the authorities and the Russian Orthodox Church.

 
 
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