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Jailed Pussy Rioters switch legal team. A move away from politics?

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"The main question is whether some of Putin aides misinformed him – either accidentally or on purpose – or he is aware of the facts and is deliberately misinforming Angela Merkel," Ms. Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, told journalists.

Obstacles to defense

Mark Feigin, Nikolai Polozov, and Violetta Volkova were the original three lawyers for the Pussy Riot members who were sentenced in August to two years in a penal colony for performing a blasphemous, anti-Putin "punk prayer" at the altar of Moscow's leading Orthodox cathedral.

"We can no longer protect our clients because of all the obstacles that are being thrown in the way," says Mr. Feigin. "We tried to visit Tolokonnikova at IK-14, and it was not allowed. If we can't help our clients while they are incarcerated in the colonies, then what's the use?"

He said it was agreed with the Pussy Riot women that if visits wouldn't be permitted, then the lawyers would withdraw. On Monday they did, and were replaced by Irina Khrunova, the lawyer who managed to get a suspended sentence for the third Pussy Riot defendant, Yekaterina Samutsevich, by stressing technical aspects – such as the fact that Ms. Samutsevich had been detained in the church before getting involved in the profane performance – and downplaying any political dimension in the case.

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