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Pussy Riot, musicians/activists

Women's Impact Report 2012: Creatives

Three young women in their 20s have done what protests of hundreds of thousands in Russia over the past year failed to do: Put President Vladimir Putin’s regime, which many Russians feel is rife with cronyism and oppression, in the world’s spotlight.

In February Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist collective —- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and two others who have since fled the country — performed a punk rock song damning Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church that supports him, in the country’s major cathedral, Moscow’s Christ the Saviour.

It seemed another in the months of actions by hundreds of thousands of Russian citizen protesting widespread election fraud and the cynical way former president Dmitry Medvedev and former prime minister Putin simply swapped places.

But the band’s arrest, five-month pre-trial imprisonment and unusually harsh two-year labor camp sentences was met with a flood of international outrage — from Paul McCartney and Madonna to Amnesty Intl. The European Parliament has nominated them for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The band’s supporters continue to protest, staging a Free Pussy Riot music festival and keeping the band — and the issues it brought to light — in the global spotlight.

In September, Medvedev made weak noises calling for their sentences to be commuted. Their appeal process is currently under way. Meanwhile the young women sit in jail, with husbands and for two of them, children, at home.

Twitter: @freepussyriot

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