Russia's Pussy Riot: Unmasked and on trial

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Feminist punk group Pussy Riot members sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow. (AP) Feminist punk group Pussy Riot members sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow. (AP)
Summary3 Pussy Riot members face jail terms; band says protests will continue despite harassment.

Yekaterina Samutsevich's father had his first hint that his studious daughter was part of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot when he received a call to bail her out of jail.

Like other members of the political protest group, she wore a brightly coloured balaclava at performances and used various nicknames at interviews in the belief that anonymity was as vital to their militant philosophy as the ability to shock.

But any last hope of keeping her identity a secret died when she and two bandmates were arrested after Pussy Riot belted out a profanity-laced punk prayer deriding Vladimir Putin on the altar of Moscow's main cathedral on February 21.

Samutsevich, 29, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, are now instantly recognisable for many Russians.

Television footage of their pale faces peering out of a courtroom cage are now beamed across Russia daily as they face trial on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for which the state prosecutor wants a three-year jail term.

It was a shock the authorities made such a serious case out of this, said Samutsevich's grey-haired father, Stanislav.

His daughter, like her bandmates, is a well educated, middle class Muscovite, and graduated top of her class. But he is now preparing for the prospect of seeing her imprisoned.

In jail awaiting trial, Samutsevich has spent her time reading philosophical literature such as works by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zhizek and Frenchman Michel Foucault.

The women have been denounced by some Russian Orthodox Christians for doing the devil's work but are held up as heroes by the Russian opposition, whose leaders portray the trial as part of a crackdown on dissent by Putin since he returned to the presidency in May after four years as premier.

Pussy Riot has about 10 to 20 members at any given time and no fixed lineup. Its members make their appearances hiding their faces inside their trademark balaclavas, usually wearing short dresses and mismatched tights, and wielding electric guitars.

The idea of the group is that taking part in Pussy Riot is absolutely anonymous and anyone can take part, said one member going by the name of Sparrow, who took the stage in a ski mask along with several other Pussy Riot activists during the encore of a Moscow gig of U.S. heavy metal band Faith No More in July.

To join the group, the most important thing was to not be afraid and be a punk, she told

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