Moscow: A court ruled on Wednesday that three members of a punk band who stormed the pulpit of Moscow`s main Orthodox Church and asked for Russia to be freed from Vladimir Putin will remain in jail until late July.
Five members of feminist band Pussy Riot wearing brightly coloured homemade ski masks and miniskirts briefly seized the pulpit of Moscow`s Christ the Savoir Cathedral in February and chanted "Mother Mary, drive Putin away”.
A video of the performance posted on the Internet shows churchgoers gazing on astonished as the women chant, high kick and dance around from the pulpit, and then appear to bow and bless themselves as security arrives to remove them.
Three band members were identified and arrested in March and face up to seven years in jail on hooliganism charges.
Tagansky district court judge ruled yesterday that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and 29-year-old Yekaterina Samutsevich will remain in detention until July 24, after an investigator petitioned to keep them in prison while the police investigation continues.
Their cause and the Russian Orthodox Church`s harsh response have provoked public outcry.
Outside the court building, police detained at least five people as dozens of the band`s supporters whistled in unison, chanted anti-Kremlin slogans and clashed with Orthodox activists who called on the band members "to repent”.
Pussy Riot gained notoriety in January for performing a song taunting Putin then prime minister from a spot on Red Square used in Czarist Russia for announcing government decrees. Video of their performances became instant Internet hits.
The band`s unauthorised "punk prayer" took place two weeks before March`s presidential vote in which Putin won a third presidential term despite a wave of massive protests against his rule.
The church says the women deserve to be prosecuted for their "blasphemous" performance from a place near the altar that no lay persons are allowed to enter, although thousands of believers have signed a petition urging the church to forgive the band.
Attorneys for the band members argued that they should be released because they have young children.
Although church and state are separate under Russia`s constitution, the Russian Orthodox Church has claimed a leading role in setting moral guidelines for society. Its growing prominence has caused concern among followers of minority faiths and nonreligious Russians.