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Beastie Boys, Sting, and Madonna among musicians coming out in support of jailed Russian band Pussy Riot

This one’s a doozy, so let’s start from the top.

Pussy Riot, a feminist-punk outfit in Russia that has become famous for donning colorful ski masks and staging activist-minded performances in public, have gone from rock rebels to political prisoners of the state. (There songwriting and performances tend to focus a number of issues, most often government oppression and women’s rights.)

Their crime? Criticizing Vladimir Putin — the man who has more or less been in control of the country since 1999.

Putin’s camp has always been rather wary of the women in Pussy Riot, but things hit a boiling point last February, when the band took to the altar of Russia’s main church, Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral, and held an impromptu “punk prayer service” that included chants like “Mother Mary, put Putin away.”

Someone did end up getting put away, but it wasn’t Putin: PR members Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were arrested and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility,” and their trial began Monday in Moscow.

They face up to seven years in prison.

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