Under Vladimir Putin's leadership ties between the Russian state and Russian Orthodox church have become increasingly close. Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Orthodox church, has welcomed Putin's support over the construction of new churches to replace those destroyed in the Communist era.
Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have taken a stand apart from the church by giving his opinion on the ongoing trial of three members of Pussy Riot. They stand accused
of hooliganism following a controversial performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February. RFERL
reported "The indictment against them accuses them of trying to openly express disrespect to the Christian world and the church canons."
If convicted the women could face seven years in prison. According to the Moscow Times
Putin's judgement is "I don't think that they should be judged too harsh." Defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov called Putin's comments a "crucial turn" in the case.
The trial has brought attention to the influence of the Orthodox church in Russian society, with many critics opposing its power. Putin himself appeared to be somewhat flustered by the church during a recent visit to a 14th century monastery. The video below shows Putin's discomfort when a Russian Orthodox Priest tries to kiss his hand.
The court is expected to reach a verdict in the Pussy Riot trial sometime this week.