Russia's Dmitri Medvedev called for the release of three Pussy Riot members sentenced to two years in prison. Is he trying to distance himself from the decreasingly popular president?
Dmitri Medvedev, Russia's prime minister and former president, has departed from the official script – as he sometimes dramatically does – to call for the release of three Pussy Riot women who were sentenced last month to two years in a penal colony for committing sacrilege in Moscow's premier Orthodox cathedral.
The women have been in prison since March, and their appeal hearing is set to begin in two weeks. Mr. Medvedev called for the women to be given suspended sentences.
"This well-known group of girls have been in prison quite a long time already, and that is a very serious punishment for everything they did, regardless of the sentence…. Prolonging their prison confinement seems unproductive in this case," he added.
Medvedev's comments came just a few days after President Vladimir Putin compared Pussy Riot performances with "witches' sabbaths" and mused over how obscene their name sounds in English in an interview with the Kremlin-run RT network. Otherwise, Mr. Putin insisted he had nothing to do with the case.