Continued from page 2

The head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, has made no secret of his strong support for Putin, praising his leadership as “God’s miracle,” and he described the punk performance as part of an assault by “enemy forces” on the church. He avoided talking to journalists Friday as he left Warsaw’s Royal Castle following a ceremony in which he and the head of Poland’s Catholic Church called for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation between the churches.

The Orthodox Church said in a statement after the verdict that the band’s stunt was a “sacrilege” and a “reflection of rude animosity toward millions of people and their feelings.” It also asked the authorities to “show clemency toward the convicted in the hope that they will refrain from new sacrilegious actions.”

A handful of Orthodox activists joined the crowd outside the courthouse. “I’m glad they were punished like criminals and didn’t get away with it,” said Dmitry Tsorionov, holding a Bible. “They committed a grave crime and nobody should do it again.”

The case comes in the wake of several recently passed laws cracking down on opposition, including one that raised the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstrations by 150 times to 300,000 rubles (about $9,000).

Another measure requires non-governmental organizations that both engage in vaguely defined “political activity” and receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” Putin has accused foreign countries of feeding much of the dissent in Russia.

___

Nataliya Vasilyeva, Lynn Berry, Mansur Mirovalev and Jim Heintz contributed to this report.