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Russian Punks Headed for Jail after Winning the Week

Yes, it’s true that a Russian “court” sentenced all three members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot to two years in prison today on hilariously trumped-up charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” (yeah, OK…), but we feel like they won the news cycle in their own way.

For one thing, very few people outside of Russia–and only a few more within it–had any interest in the group before this story broke a few weeks ago (and based on their music, we can see why), but their unfortunate name is now common knowledge in news rooms and living rooms around the globe.

Large-scale protests among the country’s cultural and intellectual elite couldn’t stop Vladamir Putin from reclaiming the presidency in a fairly blatant show of vote-fixing earlier this year, but these three ladies knew how to win the attention of both the government and the outside world: A couple of weeks before the election, they staged what can only be described as a publicity stunt in a Moscow Catholic church, dancing around in hoods that look like they came from American Apparel‘s fall line and chanting a song whose lyrics demand that the Virgin Mary “Drive away Putin.”

Sure, the move alienated some older, more traditional members of the body politic, but the way we see it, the whole ordeal was a big PR win for the band and its ideological allies…and a major loss for the Putin government. The Prez claims indifference to popular resistance, but the very fact that the court saw fit to sentence these three women shows otherwise. In the understatement of the day, The U.S. embassy in Moscow called the sentence “disproportionate to what the defendants did.”

Members of New York counterculture gathered in support of the trio last night; even original provocateur Madonna saw fit to weigh in on the matter, discussing the band at a Moscow concert and demanding their immediate release.

So yes, they will have to spend some time in jail. But they’ve certainly captured the world’s attention in the process. And their “closing statements” are must-reads, referencing the bombing of innocent civilians and asking why Putin felt the need to appoint one of his former KGB colleagues as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, effectively turning the area’s oldest religious entity into a de facto wing of his own government. While we can’t imagine this incident leading to dramatic changes in Russia’s political culture, it just might be another step toward “death by a thousand cuts.”

We wish them luck. Here’s the stunt that won them headlines and landed them in prison:

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