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Pussy Riot releases single, gets support of U.S. State Department

August 17, 2012|By August Brown
  • Feminist punk group Pussy Riot members, from left, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow on Friday. They were sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of hooliganism.
Feminist punk group Pussy Riot members, from left, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda… (Sergey Ponomarev / Associated…)

On the day that three members of the Russian punk-activist group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail for the charge of "hooliganism driven by religious hatred," they earned a few new fans as well.

First, the other members of the band released a new single online, "Putin Lights Up the Fires." The Guardian newspaper in England compiled clips and stills for an accompanying video, and the song could be a post-sentencing rallying cry for the millions of music fans and free-speech advocates following the case.

The song evokes the trashy minimalism of '70s U.K. punks Crass with the urgency of young women who suspect that speaking their minds might result in a brutal prison sentence -- and they were sadly proved right. (Watch the video below.)

In a later announcement, the U.S. State Department issued an official message of concern over Friday's verdict. Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that "The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia. We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld."

In recent weeks, scores of musicians and activists have come to the group's defense, including Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sting, Bjork and many others. Now the the sentence has been rendered, it appears other governments and human rights groups are beginning to take closer notice. 

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