Free Pussy Riot, then Free Russia!

Free Pussy Riot! Free Russia!

Free Pussy Riot! Free Russia!

I recall many years ago reading a slim book by German writer Hermann Hesse. A man was in prison, but he was free because his mind was free. The front cover had a man in gaol, the prison walls were dissolving, beyond could be seen the countryside and the man was stepping through into freedom. It was a powerful image!

I thought of that book when facing two years in jail for singing a song criticizing President Putin in a church, a member of Pussy Riot gestured to the court and said in her show-trial’s closing statements:

“Despite the fact that we are physically here, we are freer than everyone sitting across from us … We can say anything we want…”

Russia is steadily slipping into the grip of a kleptocracy — clamping down on public protest, rigging elections, intimidating media, banning gay rights parades for 100 years, and even beating critics like chess master Garry Kasparov. But many Russian citizens remain defiant, and Pussy Riot’s eloquent bravery has galvanized the world’s solidarity. Now is our best chance to show Vladimir Putin there is a price to pay for this repression and that lies with Europe.

Many of us have friends in Russia, we see Russia as a modern Western democracy, and yet at the same time we fear for our friends when we see Russia sliding back into the darkness of the Stalin purges, where any form of criticism or dissent is not tolerated, where the Mafia Monks of Moscow are in an unholy alliance with the Kremlin.

The European Parliament is calling for an assets freeze and travel ban on Vladimir Putin’s powerful inner circle who are accused of multiple crimes. Our community is spread across every corner of the world — if we can push the Europeans to act, it will not only hit Putin’s circle hard, as many bank and have homes in Europe, but also counter his anti-Western propaganda, showing him that the whole world is willing to stand up for a free Russia. 

It is not only Russians who want to see a free Russia. None of us wish to see Russia become a pariah state like Iran or Saudi Arabia or North Korea.

Click below to support the sanctions and tell everyone: 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/free_pussy_riot_free_russia_e

Last week’s trial is about far more than three women and their 40-second punk prayer to the Virgin Mary pleading to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin. When tens of thousands flooded the streets to protest rigged elections, the government threw organisers into jail for weeks. And in June, the Russian Parliament effectively outlawed dissent by raising the fine for unsanctioned protest by an astounding 150-fold, roughly the annual salary for an average Russian. 

A sanctioned protest is in itself an oxymoron. We should not have to seek permission of authority to hold a protest.

Pussy Riot may be the most famous Russian activists right now, but their sentence is not the grossest injustice of Putin’s war on dissent. In 2009, anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered a massive tax fraud at the heart of Russia’s power dealers, died in jail — without a trial, on shaky charges, and with medical attention repeatedly denied. Sixty of Russia’s elite have been under scrutiny for the case and its cover-up, and the sanctions the European Parliament is proposing will hit this inner circle. 

International attention to Russia’s crackdown is cresting right now, and the ‘Magnitsky sanctions’ are the best way to put the heat on Vladimir Putin and help create breathing room for the suffocating democracy movement. Let’s give Europe’s leaders a global public mandate to adopt the sanctions. 

Please sign the petition and share this with everyone: 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/free_pussy_riot_free_russia_e

What happens in Russia matters to us all.

Since taking office Vladimir Putin has turned Russia into a pariah state.

Russia has backed Assad in his brutal slaughter of the Syrian people, has blocked all resolutions at the UN Security Council, has been condemned by the UN General Assembly.

Russia in what was seen as a Stalin-era show trial, has sentenced three members of Pussy Riot to two years in a penal colony. The security forces are seeking other members of Pussy Riot to put on trial.

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