"Six months ago Pussy Riot, as a radical left-wing group, was scarcely known, not by me or the vast majority," says Masha Lipman, editor of the Moscow Carnegie Center's Pro et Contra journal.
"If the people who framed this case had known that six months later it would be a huge scandal, that celebrities and governments all over the world would be issuing condemnations of Russia over this, they would have been astonished.... It seems clear that the decision to put them on trial was a political calculation – or, as it turns out, a miscalculation – taking into account the presidential elections, the existence of a big street protest movement. If it was a thought-out action, perhaps the idea was to associate these punk rock women in the eyes of the majority with the protesters, to show them as immoral freaks, agents of an alien culture, spoiled brats with nothing to do but provoke trouble and people whose values are contrary to the fundamentals of our culture – and, by extension, smear the whole protest movement," she says.
Some mainstream intellectuals and pundits, such as pro-Kremlin TV personality Tina Kandelaki, have defended the prosecution of the women for allegedly defiling a church and offending the sensibilities of Russia's Orthodox majority, but also slammed the Russian state for overreacting to a minor provocation. They complain that, as has happened often in the past, the Kremlin chose to wield the sledgehammer of harsh criminal penalties to crush a flea-sized political challenge, thus generating a wave of global sympathy and roiling Russia's intelligensia over the fate of a group of radical "performance artists" who might have remained nobodies without the high-profile trial.