Supporters of Russia's punk-feminist performance art group Pussy Riot have lately been in the news almost as much as three members of the group currently on trial in Moscow.
A verdict is expected in the case on August 17, and the defendants could face up to seven years in prison if convicted of "hooliganism...motivated by religious hostility or hatred."
Not just inside Russia, but from Washington
to Berlin, there have been almost daily demonstrations of support for the three women. The list of celebrities who have publicly appealed to the Kremlin to pull back their prosecution has seemingly grown by the hour, and now includes Madonna and Bjork. Former Beatle Paul McCartney added his voice on August 16.
So leave it to Serbia's nationalist youth group Nasi to take the contrarian position. The group has launched an online game
with the provocative title "Shoot the Pussy Riot -- Death to Enemies."
The graphics are primitive and the game itself isn’t even as sophisticated as Pong -- or anything else from the early days of video gaming.
A red, blue, and green trio of balaclavas -- Pussy Riot is known for performing in colorful outfits, including balaclavas -- pass endlessly from right to left on the screen while the player tries to blow them away using the crosshairs of a particularly loud gun.
As the blasted balaclavas disappear, the slogan "Death to Enemies" flashes on the screen.
A press release on the group's website
emphasizes -- in case anyone might get the wrong idea -- that the group is not advocating killing anyone. Apparently, the masks, the guns, the slogan "Death to Enemies" are all to be taken figuratively, and have nothing at all to do with what Nasi calls Pussy Riot's "quasi-satanic performances."
Instead, the press release says, the masks represent, collectively, British foreign intelligence agency MI6, the CIA, and Russian nongovernmental organizations, which are controlled by the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Taken together, Nasi says, the three constitute a greater danger to Russia than even Pussy Riot.
Nasi's official position on Pussy Riot is that after the women serve their prison sentences, they should be sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment and rehabilitation.
Popular Serbian blogger Tibor Jona says he is not convinced by Nasi's claims that the game's inherent violence should be taken figuratively.
"This is just a continuation of the general savageness that rules here, and that means those who can beat, kill, or steal will survive -- and better luck to the others in the next draw," Jona says. "And this is bizarre in the context of the Christian world view and, in general, of organizations that portray themselves as the guardians of Christian values."
In general, the reaction within Serbia to the Pussy Riot case has been deafening silence compared to the strong support the group has in other countries.
Andrej Nosov, of the Belgrade-based performance-art NGO Heartefact
, attributes the silence to Serbia's historical relationship with Russia and to its uncertainty about its place in Europe.
"The so-called patriotic link with Russia is a strong reason why there has been no reaction," Nosov says. "People think, ‘We and the Russians, we are Slavic people who help each other. Putin is the right guy, and we also have such a president.’ I think there is definitely a connection. In the event of a breach of human rights in the United States, I am sure the citizens of Serbia would have some kind of reaction. We are in a sort of constant fear: ‘Who are we? What is our relationship with the EU and with Russia?’"
-- Robert Coalson and Iva Martinovic