MOSCOW, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is under fire by critics who say he had a role in the sentencing of members of the Pussy Riot band. He denies any involvement.
Governments, celebrities, actors and even Putin supporters denounced the sentences handed down last week to three members of the punk band for performing an anti-government song in a Russian Orthodox cathedral in February, The Moscow Times reported.
Fans of Sweden's AIK soccer team, which will play Moscow's CSKA in the Europa League Thursday, said they would bring banners to show support for Pussy Riot, the Times said.
Some analysts said the result of the "hooliganism" case struck an appropriate balance.
"Judging by the public resonance, the sentence is sufficient," Alexei Mukhin, a Center for Political Information analyst, told the Times. "If the young women had been freed, the opposition would have seen the authorities as weak. If it had been too harsh, the Kremlin would be labeled as repressive."
The trial of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, on charges of hooliganism stemming from religious hatred prompted international criticism when it began July 30, and that grew when the women were sentenced to serve nearly 18 months in a penal colony. The time they are to serve reflects a reduction of the five months they were in jail before the trial began.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday the president couldn't intervene with the judicial process, Interfax reported.
Several Putin loyalists criticized the court decision.
Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who has worked with Putin since the 1990s, said on his Web site the matter was "yet another blow to the judicial system and, above all, to the trust in it held by Russian citizens. ... The country's image and attractiveness for investment [have] been dealt huge damage."
The Russian Orthodox Church's leadership urged authorities Friday to show clemency "in the hope that they will refrain from new sacrilegious actions," the Times said. The church said the band's actions were "a grave sin" that insulted believers, but forgiveness was needed.