A Moscow court has sentenced four members of the Pussy Riot protest group to 15 days in jail for briefly interrupting the July 15 World Cup final between France and Croatia by running onto the pitch wearing fake police uniforms.
The group carried out the protest stunt early in the second half of the final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking officials from around the world.
Pussy Riot immediately posted messages on social media claiming responsibility for the protest and issuing a list of six political demands, including the release of all political prisoners in Russia, ending arrests at peaceful rallies, and allowing “political competition in the country.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Pussy Riot Claims Field Invasion (click to view)
The four protesters also have been banned by the court from attending sporting events for three years.
They were identified as Veronika Nikulshina, Olga Pakhtusova, Olga Kurachyova, and Pyotr Verzilov.
Kurachyova said their stunt was meant to promote freedom of speech and to condemn the policies of FIFA, soccer's world governing body.
"FIFA is involved in unfair games, unfortunately. FIFA is a friend of heads of states who carry out repression, who violate human rights," Kurachyova told reporters on July 16. "It is a pity that we disrupted the sportsmen."
The court found the four guilty of "grossly violating the rules for spectators' behavior" and were given the maximum punishment possible under the charge.
Verzilov is the founder of the Mediazona website, which reports on the trials of rights activists in Russia.