* Criticisms "politically charged", "anti-Russian"
* Foreign ministry says West underplayed religious outrage
* "Freedom of expression is not absolute"
MOSCOW, Aug 22 Russia denounced foreign
criticism of the trial of punk band Pussy Riot as politically
motivated on Wednesday and said there were "elements of a clash
of civilisations" in Western condemnation.
Three members of the band were sentenced to two years' jail
last week for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" when
they performed a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral,
calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir
Western governments have said the sentences handed down to
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina
Samutsevich, 30, were disproportionate. Rights groups and
musicians have called for their release.
Critics of Putin, who returned to the presidency for a third
term on May 7 after a four-year spell as prime minister, say the
Pussy Riot case illustrated his lack of tolerance of dissent.
"The case ... has served only as an occasion for the latest
wave of rushed, biased and politically charged evaluations,"
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in
"It seems that what is important to certain human rights
structures and media outlets is not so much the fate of these
young women as the opportunity to create yet another scandal on
anti-Russian grounds," Lukashevich said.
He said the West must respect Russia's need to protect the
"millions of Orthodox Christian believers and people of other
faiths adhering to traditional concepts of morality" that he
said had been offended by the protest.
"This situation, without a doubt, has elements of a clash of
civilisations," the statement said.
"Many in the post-modern West forget about Europe's
Christian roots and also do not want to respect the feelings of
the followers of other faiths, thinking that religion limits
democracy," Lukashevich said.
He said that international human rights conventions had
established that "freedom of expression is not absolute" and
stipulate that restrictions are needed to protect the security
of nations and the well-being of their citizens.