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Russian Punk Musicians Await Sentence For 'Protest Prayer'

Madonna has scrawled the band's name across her back. The mayor of Reykjavik has dressed up like a band member. And Paul McCartney has written three imprisoned members to offer them his full support.

The band is Pussy Riot, and the protest song by the feminist rock band is getting worldwide attention. Last February, they staged an impromptu performance in one of Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedrals. Wearing colorful balaclavas and gaudy tights, the women sang a prayer to the Virgin Mary calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin's banishment and used vulgar language criticizing church leader Patriarch Kirill.

We've had decades of outrageous music videos that offend churchgoers (remember Madonna's 'Like A Prayer'?). But in Russia, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, who's 29, have been jailed for nearly six months for their demonstration, charged with hooliganism and hatred of the church, a crime punishable with a seven year prison term. Their case is also seen as a test of free speech rights in Russia, and of how thin-skinned Putin really is.

Tomorrow they'll be sentenced. Their supporters, in at least two dozen cities, according to the AP, will march in streets an hour before the court session begins. In New York City, protesters will gather in front of the Russian Consulate.

Protests will also come to Russian leaders. Patriarch Kirill is visiting Poland: Amnesty International, which considers the women 'prisoners of conscience', plans to stage protests during his trip, according to Reuters.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.

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