Medvedev privately pardons Pussy Riot

The controversy about the Pussy Riot verdict received an unexpected turn as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev released a number of quite unexpected statements about it.

"A well-known group of girls has been in prison for a long time - this is already a serious punishment for what they did," Medvedev said during a meeting with activists of "United Russia" in Russia's Penza. "If we talk about the essense of the offense, then, in my view, the punishment that they had already served is quite enough for them to think about what they did. Extending their stay in prison is counterproductive, I believe. In my opinion, a conditional sentence would be enough in this case," he added.

Undoubtedly, the prime minister and chairman of the ruling party United Russia expressed his personal point of view. It is possible that he did it without a second thought or intent. Medvedev knew, of course, that his words could be misinterpreted as criticism of the verdict.  Moreover, the prime minister expressed his thoughts about the case being aware of the fact that the verdict had been appealed. Medvedev reminded that he had not formulated his position after the announcement of the verdict, taking into consideration the fact that the lawyers of the three girls appealed the verdict.

Indeed, Medvedev preferred to withhold comments on the controversial case. Earlier, Prime Minister actually refrained from any specifics of the case, having said that it would be better to wait for the verdict. "Investigation is underway, positions are different. In some countries, responsibility for such actions would be much more stringent, not to mention the fact that such acts could lead to highly lamentable consequences under certain political conditions for those who performed them being in a temple of any confession," he said in an interview with Times.

As for lamentable consequences, the recent events in Libya can be a good example. In Libya, angry protesters attacked the US consulate Office and killed several US diplomats, including US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. The attack, as it turned out, was caused by the intention to show "Innocence of Islam" documentary in the United States. As the protesters believe, the documentary defamed their saint, Prophet Muhammad. The film called Islam "cancer," and presented Prophet Muhammad as a fraudster, who called on people to slay each other.

The film itself has not been released, but some of its excerpts appeared on the Internet in the Arabic language. That became the spark that blew up the Muslim world. Mass riots occurred in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. YouTube, where the excerpts appeared, was blocked in Afghanistan to avoid trouble.   

However, it is the reaction of the United States that was most demonstrative. The U.S. Air Force was not set on high alert. The US did not deploy additional troops in Benghazi. To crown it all, official statements from the White House were quite restrained. U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the murder of his fellow citizens, but at the same time he noted that the U.S. would not tolerate the attempts to vilify the religious faith of others.

Noteworthy, Russian President Vladimir Putin said a few days ago, answering questions from an RT journalist, that he was not much concerned about the development of the Pussy Riot case. "I think that those girls have lawyers, and it is them who should represent their interests in court. They can appeal the verdict in a higher court and seek its reconsideration. But it is their business, it is purely a legal issue  ... I do not even know whether their lawyers have appealed to the higher court or not. I just don't follow it. But if a higher instance considers the issue, it has the right to make any decision. You know, I just try not to touch upon this case at all. I know what's going on there, but I do not go there at all," Putin said.

Of course, both Putin and Medvedev have their own position regarding the rebellious "Pussy." This position is well known: the state duty is to protect the feelings of believers. At the same time, the president does not consider it possible to comment on the court ruling of justice, while the prime minister directly speaks about the unproductive outcome of the court hearing.

Has the tandem split? Not likely. Is it a game of a good cop and a bad cop? No.  

If the judge leaves the verdict unchanged, it will mean that the Russian justice does not depend even on the opinions of top officials. However, should the Moscow City Court follow the recommendations from the chairman of the government, there will definitely be problems.

Igor Kulagin


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov