Free speech in Russia? Ask these punk rock girls.

As far as Russia goes, we “tore down that wall.” And the Russians have been occasionally putting on public entertainment spectacles which, on the surface, bear some resemblance to elections. So is freedom ringing in the home of our old cold war nemesis? Freedom of speech doesn’t seem to be, particularly if you’re a member of a certain punk rock band, the name of which I won’t type in here myself.

Three members of female punk group Pussy Riot who derided President Vladimir Putin in a protest in Moscow’s main cathedral had their spell in jail extended by six months on Friday in what their lawyers called a show trial dictated by the Kremlin.

The women, who have been held in pre-trial custody for almost five months, face up to seven years in jail on charges of hooliganism for storming the altar in multi-coloured masks to sing a “punk prayer” to the Virgin Mary to “Throw Putin Out!”

For the time being, I’m just going to assume they really like cats. Who doesn’t like cats?

The original actions of the band members were undoubtedly offensive to some of the Russians in the cathedral – and obviously to the government as well – but the resulting punishment should come as a shock to most Americans. They’ve already spent more time behind bars before even getting a full trial than anyone in the US would get as full punishment for something like this. And I have a feeling that Putin’s folks are far less upset about the sacrilegious nature of the protest than the message they were putting out.

Putin is still holding Russia in an iron grip, either directly or through his puppets. And while they put on a pretty good show for the international media, not much has changed in terms of day to day life for regular Russian citizens. (Though for the well heeled and politically well connected, there are some millionaires being made these days.) But freedom of speech? I’m afraid that’s still a fantasy for Russians.