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August 22, 2013

Pussy Riot Will Face Censorship Battles after Release

Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov appeared on HuffPost Live on August 16 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the conviction of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot.

Three members of the art collective were arrested in early 2012 for a staging a 40-second nonviolent protest in Moscow’s main cathedral. Russian courts convicted them of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred"--one part of the  country’s anti-extremism laws, which the government misuses to prosecute religious communities, civil society, and journalists. Despite the passage of time and the release of Yekaterina Samutsevic, the remaining imprisoned members continue to be a touchstone for outrage against the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent.

In the segment, Grekov noted that Russian people's support for the harsh sentence has slowly eroded, but the majority continues to support it.  “The longer they stay in jail, the more they show themselves as stoics," Grekov says, "[but] the more they speak their minds and criticize the system and the verdict against them, I think the less support for the harsh verdict that was handed down by the court a year ago.” The claim is substantiated by a poll from the Levada Center earlier this year.

After completing their two year sentence, the band members will face the legal battle to remove much of their work from the Kremlin’s Federal List of Extremist Materials. As one of several misused tools to battle so-called extremism, the list prevents Pussy Riot’s videos from being aired domestically, effectively creating an informational blockade between the message of the band and the majority of Russians.