Pussy Riot Sentenced to 2 Years for … Protesting in a Church, Basically

Punk band going to prison for "hooliganism" in protest of Putin

Three women in the punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison Friday for staging a protest of their president in a cathedral.

That may sound like the plot of a not very avant-garde, early '90s music video, but it happened. In Russia.

Judge Marina Syrova convicted the three members of the group of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and said they had "crudely undermined social order" with their protest of Vladimir Putin, according to the BBC.

The charges and sentencing have inspired protests in several European cities and in Russia. Paul McCartney and Madonna are among the artists who have spoken out in defense of the women. The Associated Press said those arrested in the Russian protests include former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov.

In a brief, obscenity-laced performance in February, the bandmates staged a flashmob-style performance near the altar in an Orthodox church. During the show, they asked the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out." Two weeks later, he was elected to a second term as president.

Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29,  learned of their fates from within a glass-walled cage in the courtroom. The BBC said they smiled at the verdict, which had been widely predicted. They have already been held for five months.