The lives of the young son and parents of a suspected member of the Pussy Riot punk group have been threatened, a lawyer for one of the alleged participants in the band’s recent anti-Putin protest said on Wednesday.
“The parents and son of Maria Alyokhina have received death threats both by telephone and online,” lawyer Violetta Volkova told RIA Novosti. “The women themselves have also been threatened.”
Her comments come shortly after Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill said “the devil” had mocked believers during the band’s February 21 “punk prayer” at the altar of downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral and hit out at calls for leniency.
“The police have been informed, but they are not interested in defending the accused,” Volkova added. “As we understand, the threats were made by rabid fanatics far removed from Orthodox Christianity.”
Five members of the group, clad in bright balaclavas, knelt and crossed themselves as they sang an acapella version of a song entitled “Holy Sh*t” at the cathedral, which hosts Orthodox Christmas services attended by Russian leaders. The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”
The group said the performance was a response to Patriarch Kirill’s support for President-elect Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his March 4 election victory and accused him of “believing in Putin,” rather than God.
Putin’s press secretary has said the president-elect reacted “negatively” when told of the group’s protest in the cathedral.
Volkova also blamed investigators for the appearance of the home addresses of suspected members of the group on the Internet.
“We do not know if this was down to negligence or done deliberately,” she said. “But Pussy Riot members who were detained in January after a performance on Red Square gave their names and address to police then.”
But an Interior Ministry spokesman rubbished the claim.
“It’s a lawyer’s job to say things like that,” said Oleg Yelnikov. “I don’t believe this.”
Alyokhina and fellow suspect Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were detained on March 3. A third suspect, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was detained in mid-March. All three suspects face seven years behind bars and have been refused bail.
Volkova told Moscow City Court on Wednesday that Samutsevich had initially given police a false name because she wanted to “protect her elderly father” from similar death threats.
Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev told the court that the group’s performance was like a “spit in the face” for him personally.
“This was a cynical insult for the whole of society,” he said, defending the decision to refuse them bail.
Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for “Revolt in Russia!” and chanting “Putin’s got scared” before being detained by police.