Support Marketplace

Russian rock band Pussy Riot sentenced to prison

Supporters of the Russian female punk band Pussy Riot protest outside the Russian embassy on August 17, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.

In Moscow this morning, a judge convicted and sentenced the three members of a rock band called Pussy Riot to two years in prison. In March, they staged an unauthorized performance in Moscow's main cathedral, calling for the Virgin Mary to protect the country against President Vladimir Putin. Their official crime is "hooliganism by religious hatred." But to many inside and outside Russia, the case has come to represent considerably more than that.

And it comes at a tricky time for Russia on the international stage. Russia is set to formally join the World Trade Organization next week. One thing they're supposed to do as a condition of membership is to reform their court system.

Reporter Peter van Dyk has been watching the verdict for us in Moscow. He says the situation "certainly highlights the need to reform the court system, which is constantly under question here and the hope here is that the accession into the WTO will provide fresh impetus for those reforms to take place, because investors and those who do business here do worry that the commitment to make many, many reforms, including of the court system, is not complete and needs a bit of a push from external factors."

Business-wise, van Dyk says those already involved in Russia won't be affected by the trial because they know this is what goes on in Russia on occasion. "But people who aren't here yet and may be thinking about coming here, maybe see the WTO membership and think, 'Yes, there's progress happening' -- then they see this and it makes them take a step back again."

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...