Pussy Riot Jail Term Rated ‘Fair’ by Most Russians, Poll Shows

Most Russians support sentencing three members of the Pussy Riot female punk band to two years in prison for a protest stunt against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s largest cathedral, according to a poll.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said the punishment is “fair,” while 27 percent said it is “not fair,” the Moscow- based Public Opinion Foundation, or FOM, found in a survey it plans to publish on its website this week. The women were convicted Aug. 17 of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred.

The U.S. and the European Union criticized the terms as “disproportionate,” as did pop stars including Madonna, Sting and Paul McCartney, who Putin invited to the Kremlin before a Red Square concert in 2003.

“Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, drive Putin away,” masked Pussy Riot members lip-synched in front of the altar of the Christ the Savior cathedral in February, weeks before the presidential election. Then-premier Putin won a third term in the Kremlin in that vote, overcoming the biggest protests to his 12-year rule. The group later made a music video of the performance and posted it online.

Just 19 percent of the 1,500 people FOM polled in 100 cities Aug. 25-26 said they hadn’t heard of the Pussy Riot case, while 34 percent said they followed the trial closely. The survey had a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

Death Penalty

“People are assessing the court ruling to some extent, but to a greater extent they are assessing the deeds of the sentenced,” said Grigory Kertman, senior analyst at FOM.

Russians in general favor tough measures against what they consider a crime, Kertman said by e-mail today. “The majority here has been against the moratorium on the death penalty for a long time,” he said.

Russians also prefer not to hear criticism of their country from foreigners, according to FOM data. Twenty-four percent of respondents viewed the condemnation from the pop stars as “negative,” versus 19 percent who said it was “positive.”

Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s approval ratings slumped this month to the lowest levels since mass protests erupted in December, when tens of thousands took to the streets to denounce Putin and alleged fraud in parliamentary elections. A crackdown on demonstrators has since ensued, including embezzlement charges that could see protest leader Alexey Navalny jailed for 10 years.

To contact the reporters on this story: Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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