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Russia's protest punk band Pussy Riot has been sentenced for an anti-Putin protest at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. What does the verdict mean for Russia, Putin and the future of protest in the country? Here's complete GlobalPost coverage from Moscow and around the world.

Pussy riot 07 20 2012
Members of the all-girl punk band Pussy Rio, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (C), Maria Alyokhina (R) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (L), sit behind bars during a court hearing in Moscow on July 20, 2012. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia

Russian Orthodox Church clerics forgive Pussy Riot

Two top clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church said Saturday that they forgive the convicted feminist band Pussy Riot.

The Russian Orthodox church's top clerics said Saturday that they forgive Pussy Riot, the feminist band convicted Friday to two years in prison for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. 

The trio of women who make up Pussy Riot have been jailed for taking over a cathedral in a demonstration against Vladimir Putin back in February. 

Tikhon Shevkunov, the head of Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery and the Russian president’s spiritual counselor, appeared on state television Saturday to speak about the case, the Associated Press reported

“The church has been sometimes accused of not forgiving them,” Shevkunov said. “We did forgive them from the very start. But such actions should be cut short by society and authorities.”

More from GlobalPost: Behind the Pussy Riot headlines, Russia wages a battle against the opposition

“We are simply praying and hoping that these young women and all these people shouting in front of the court building, committing sacrilegious acts not only in Russia but in other countries, realize that their acts are awful,” Arch priest Maxim Kozlov added. “And despite this the church is asking for mercy within." 

The clerics' latest statements have raised the possibility that the Church would support a pardon or a reduction of the band's prison terms, Reuters reported

However, the three musicians—Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30—would have to request a pardon in order for those terms to be considered. They would also likely have to plead guilty, something they have refused to do, according to Reuters. 

While their sentencing has ignited worldwide protests and an international outcry over Russia's handling of the case, the Christian Science Monitor reported that the Pussy Riot Trial has not had such a polarizing effect amongst Russians.

More from GlobalPost: Pussy Riot's hooliganism explained

Citing the latest report released last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow, the Monitor reported that there has been a "staunchly anti-Pussy Riot" stance in Russia: 

55 percent of Russians did not have their views of the judicial system altered by the trial; 9 percent said it diminished their trust in courts while 5 percent said it increased it, and 12 percent said they have no faith in the courts to begin with. About 36 percent thought the verdict would be based on the facts of the case; 18 percent thought the verdict would be dictated "from the top." Interestingly, when asked what they thought the punk band's goal was in staging the protest, about 30 percent of respondents said it was "against the church and its role in politics"; 13 percent thought it was "against Putin" and 36 percent said they could not discern the purpose.

The Russian foreign ministry has not made any formal comment about the Pussy Riot trial, saying only that offending religious believers carried penalties in other European countries as well, according to Sky News

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/120818/russian-orthodox-church-clerics-forgive-pussy-riot