MOSCOW – Yoko Ono, the artist and widow of legendary Beatles singer John Lennon, and Amnesty International have announced that members of Pussy Riot will be among this year’s winners of the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace. The group will be awarded an unspecified grant during a ceremony in New York City on Friday.
The Russian feminist punk collective became famous worldwide after Russian authorities put three members on trial for a subversive stunt in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. In February members of the group jumped on the cathedral’s altar and performed what they called a “punk prayer,” begging for divine intervention to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.
Three of the women were charged with “hooliganism” and in August they were sentenced to two years in prison. In a statement on their website, organizers called for the their release and said the trial called “into question Russia’s policies towards freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
The trial was also seen as an attempt by the Kremlin to intimidate the opposition amid an unprecedented protest movement that has called on Putin to step down and for early parliamentary elections to be held.
An appeal in the case will be heard on Oct. 1 and activists have announced plans to hold protests against their incarceration in over 100 cities around the world. Russian authorities are reportedly still searching for two other women wanted in connection with the February stunt. Pussy Riot announced on Twitter that the two had fled the country, but provided no further details.
Ahead of the August verdict the women received high profile support from global music icons including Madonna, Paul McCartney, Green Day and Sting.
Other recipients of the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace this year include peace activist Rachel Corrie, author and activist John Perkins, author and journalist Christopher Hitchens who died earlier this year, and another winner that organizers declined to name “for logistical reasons.”