The Pussy Riot punk band's harsh sentence drew swift Western condemnation. More important for Putin will be how it influences the views of Russians, especially the elite.
One day after three young members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for profaning a Russian Orthodox altar, the controversy over what they did and how the Russian state reacted to it shows every sign of growing.
There seems little doubt that the trial and the harsh sentences handed down to the women will worsen the image of Russia in the West, and particularly the credibility of Vladimir Putin, who has just completed the first 100 days of his third term as president. Many governments, including the United States, have condemned the sentence as disproportionate, and celebrities from Paul McCartney to Madonna have weighed in with their support for the group.
But international opinion can often have a negative impact in Russia. How the trial and its outcome have affected Russian public opinion may play a much bigger role in coming months, as the anti-Putin protest movement returns to the streets after a summer hiatus and the political season begins anew.
Public opinion has remained rather staunchly anti-Pussy Riot since the women were arrested in March. The latest poll, released last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow, shows little change.
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