Poll: Over 40% of Russians suspect mastermind behind Pussy Riot performance

Russians are not unanimous about possible masterminds behind the Pussy Riot punk band's scandalous performance at the Moscow Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012, the Russian Public Opinion Study Center (VTsIOM) said in commenting on a poll held in 43 constituents of the Russian Federation.

Forty-one percent of the respondents believe that the musicians were commanded by somebody else's will, and 40 percent say the opposite. Nineteen percent are hesitant.

Fifty-six percent of the respondents who suspect a mastermind are unable to say who it was. The others suspected the opposition and opponents of the Russian president (18 percent), the West (10 percent), opponents of the Russian Orthodox Church and sectarians (6 percent).

Thirty-seven percent believe that the sentence passed on the punk band singers aimed to strengthen the status of the Orthodox religion and values in the Russian society, while 36 percent called it an attempt to distract public attention from pressing socioeconomic problems.

Thirty percent do not rule out this is a way to intimidate the opposition and to raise the president's authority in the eyes of believers. Some 18 percent suspect the sentence aims to weaken the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church and to discourage believers.

Thirty-two percent do not believe in a conspiracy or hidden motives. Twenty-two percent are ready to sign up in support of the Pussy Riot sentence, and 17 percent in support of a milder sentence. Fourteen percent want a harsher sentence, and 39 percent decline all of these options.

Pussy Riot singers wearing balaclava hats staged an anti-Putin "punk prayer" at the Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, 2012.

Three musicians - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina - were detained on disorderly conduct charges. The girls pleaded not guilty; they said it was a political action, which was not intended to insult believers.

The court sentenced them to two years in a general penitentiary on August 17, and the Moscow City Court upheld the sentence on Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina and passed a suspended sentence on Samutsevich on Oct. 10.

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