Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk-rock collective based in Moscow. Founded in August 2011, it consists of approximately 12 members, who wear brightly colored balaclavas and use only nicknames during interviews. They stage unannounced provocativeperformances about Russian political life in unusual and unauthorized locations, such as the Yelokhovo Cathedral, Lobnoye Mesto in Red Square, on top of a trolleybus, or on a scaffold in the Moscow Metro. These performances are edited into videos and posted on the internet.
On February 21, 2012, five members of the group staged an illegal performance on the soleas of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, they had turned it into a music video called “Punk Prayer: Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!”.
On March 3, two of the group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were arrested and charged with hooliganism. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was arrested on March 15.
Denied bail, they were held in custody until their trial began in late July. On August 17, 2012, the three members were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and each was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
The trial and conviction have attracted international criticism. The foreign ministries of the United States and of European Union nations called the sentence “disproportionate”. According to BBC Monitoring, in the worldwide press there was “almost universal condemnation” of the two year sentence imposed on the three members of the group. Two members of the group have reportedly left Russia fearing further political reprisals.