MOSCOW — Members of the original defense team said they were puzzled by the turn of events. "We are dealing with a political game that could be about splitting Pussy Riot," defense lawyer Mark Feigin said.
The Russian Orthodox Church had said the appeals court should show leniency if the three women repented. But the defendants said Wednesday that they could not repent because they harbored no religious hatred and had committed no crime. Their protest, they said, was against Putin and the church hierarchy for openly supporting his rule.
Patriarch Kirill has expressed strong support for Putin, praising his leadership as "God's miracle." He described the punk performance as part of an assault by "enemy forces" on the church.
The judge repeatedly interrupted the defendants when their statements turned to politics, but they persisted in speaking their minds.
"We will not be silent. And even if we are in Mordovia or Siberia (where prisoners in Russia are often sent to serve out their terms) we won't be silent," Alekhina said.
A lawyer representing cathedral staff, Alexei Taratukhin, urged the court to uphold the verdict because the women's actions "had nothing to do with politics, democracy or freedom."
Five members of Pussy Riot entered the vast and nearly empty Christ the Savior Cathedral on Feb. 21. After Alekhina and her guitar were bundled out, only four of them were left to dance on the altar and shout out the words to their song before they too were ousted by security guards.
The band members were wearing their trademark balaclavas, which may have made it more difficult for police to identify them. The three women were arrested in March, and the group said the two others have since fled the country.