Russia: Pussy Riot members jailed; Obama disappointed
Moscow: A Russian court on Friday sentenced three members of girl punk band Pussy Riot to two years in prison each.
The trio were found guilty of hooliganism by a Moscow district court.
They performed a "punk prayer" calling on the Virgin Mary to "drive Putin out" and were arrested shortly after their performance.
They say they were protesting against the Orthodox Church's support for Putin ahead of the March 04 Presidential Elections, in which he won a third term in the Kremlin.
In the meantime, a White House spokesman said US President Barack Obama is disappointed by the two-year prison sentence imposed on the punk band.
The sentence handed down to the provocative band Pussy Riot follows a trial seen around the world as an emblem of Russia's intolerance of dissent.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Friday, "The United States is disappointed by the verdict, including the disproportionate sentences that were granted."
While the group's behaviour was offensive to some, Earnest said, the Obama administration has "serious concerns about the way that these young women have been treated by the Russian judicial system."
However, Judge Marina Syrova said Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were guilty and would not be acquitted.
The judge said the action was carefully planned by an organised group.
"The defendants were aware of the offensive nature of their actions," she said. "They sought to publicise their act and provoke a public reaction; they wanted to insult not only church clergy but also the broad sections of society."
"They have deeply hurt and insulted the faithful," the judge said.
In the meantime, the Russian police have rounded up pro-Pussy Riot protesters, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, and leftist opposition group leader Sergei Udaltsov.
Hundreds of Pussy Riot supporters had filled a narrow street where the court is located, chanting "Russia without Putin!" amid heavy police presence.
(With Agency inputs)