2012 YEAR IN REVIEW

Remarkable stories from an extraordinary year

I was there...when Pussy Riot were jailed

For me personally, that day signified something more than a disappointment

In July, three members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were jailed for staging an anti-Putin protest in the country's biggest cathedral.

Ksenia Adamovitch, 31, a translator who has made a series of documentaries for ITV was in Moscow to cover the case and came close to joining them in prison.

"The day the Pussy Riot verdict was announced I got to the courthouse around 3 pm, and it was already very crowded. It was difficult to get any kind of information, the internet was working very slowly or not at all, and whenever someone got new information it was passed from person to person very quickly. One of my friends who was home texted me a few times with updates that she’d read online.

Some protestors were arrested as the day went on – mostly those carrying banners.

One woman said that after this case she stopped wearing her cross. Shealways wore it, and considered herself Russian Orthodox, but after this just gave it up. Another girl on the lawn was doing yoga while singing “Our Father”.

Overall, most people I spoke to didn't lose hope until the verdict was announced. Most were hoping the rest of the world would shame Russia into making the right choice. One guy told me: “They'll probably get time served and suspended sentences, we can’t screw up that badly with the entire world watching!”

But when it became clear that we could, in fact, screw up that badly, the crowd's mood dramatically changed. The verdict was being passed from person to person – starting with those who had friends among the courthouse press and were sending them updates. The news spread quickly, and no one was sure what to do, but nobody left. Overall, people were rather shocked.

Much later I ended up outside the courthouse by the lamp-post where Tanya Romanova, the activist chased by police, was. She climbed up and started screaming slogans. A SWAT member came up and very politely asked her to get down, a number of times, saying otherwise they’d have to go after her. She refused. Near me the SWAT team discussed, for quite a while, the logistics of removing her from the lamppost.

Shortly after that things became absurd. A SWAT member climbed the lamppost, Tanya climbed over the fence onto the Turkish embassy territory, he followed her. The fences were moved by where I was standing, and the SWAT team went into the crowd – they grabbed some people, let them go, then grabbed others, and arrested them instead.

I managed to escape being grabbed by the SWAT team but was eventually pushed out into the street as the fences were being put back. I told the guy pushing the fence back that I strongly prefer to be on the other side of it, and not at all arrested. He laughed, made a little space for me to get back into the crowd and closed the fence behind me – while everyone still left in the street was arrested.

We waited for the three girls to be let out, but they were taken out the back entrance, so we didn't see them. Eventually their lawyers came out and made their way to their cars – and it was clear that there was nothing more to be done, so the crowd slowly began dispersing.

For me personally, that day signified something more than a disappointment. I do not, in any way, agree with what Pussy Riot did, nor do I, having spent years in the punk scene in my younger days, think they're particularly talented or interesting music-wise. I do firmly believe, however, that what they did was  punishable by a fine for public disturbance and nothing more. I think that criminalising such an act only adds to the desecularization of the country.

As an Orthodox person I cannot say that I was offended by what they did. It was unpleasant, but was it not for the court and media circus that ensued, I would have forgotten about it within minutes. But, as a citizen, I was most certainly offended by the verdict."

The three female members of the Pussy Riot band

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