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Two Members of Pussy Riot Flee Russia

Pussy Riot Behind Glass Trial - H 2012
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Three members of Pussy Riot were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."

In an attempt to avoid prosecution for an anti-Putin protest, two of the punk band's members have fled Russia after three were sentenced to two years in prison last week.

Two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot have fled the country in an attempt to avoid prosecution for an anti-Kremlin protest, the band said Sunday.

Five members of the all-female opposition punk group staged an anti-Vladimir Putin "punk prayer" at a Moscow church in February. Because of their masks, it was difficult for police to identify them, but three were arrested: Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30. They were sentenced August 17 to two years in prison for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. Days later, Moscow police said they were searching for the other band members who participated in that provocative performance, in essence warning the group to stop its anti-Putin protests.

Meanwhile, the punk group continues to fight for their beliefs.

Pussy Riot tweeted on Sunday that the two activists had fled Russia and are "recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new protest actions." It was not immediately clear where they went.

Despite the conviction, the group sees the turn of events as a win. "The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated," Samutsevich said during her closing statements at the trial. "The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, the world sees Russia differently than the way Putin tries to present it at his daily international meetings. Clearly, none of the steps Putin promised to take toward instituting the rule of law has been taken. And his statement that this court will be objective and hand down a fair verdict is yet another deception of the entire country and the international community."

The conviction and two-year sentence has galvanized protestors around the world, and the remaining members of the punk group (at least 12 in Russia, according to the group on Twitter) released a new song -- saying "Putin sets the fires of revolutions" -- a rallying cry for those pushing back against the sentence. Paul McCartney and Madonna, among other music-industry leaders, have called for justice, defending musicians' rights to free speech. 

As the judge was sentencing the three convicted band members in Moscow, according to the Associated Press, one of the band members who had escaped arrest played the song from an apartment balcony across the street.