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Pussy Riot's World Cup Activists Sentenced To Jail

UPDATE: The four protesters who ran onto the field during Sunday's FIFA World Cup final have been sentenced to 15 days in jail. They have also been banned from attending sporting events for three years.

The FIFA World Cup has captured the hearts and minds of more people than any of us could have anticipated this year. Between the unsuspected affection towards England manager Gareth Southgate and the impromptu screening of the final at the Beyoncé & Jay Z On The Run II tour, eyes the world over were collectively on the football. So when punk protest art group Pussy Riot stormed the field at the France v Croatia match in Russia this weekend, they likely had the one of the biggest audiences they've had for quite a while.

In the second half of the final game, four people dressed in police uniforms ran out onto the pitch. It wasn't long before they were all forcibly removed by security officials and it was only after the event that the individuals - reportedly three women and one man - were identified as members of Pussy Riot.

The group grew into recognition after their 'punk prayer' protest at Moscow's biggest cathedral back in 2012. A relatively modest operation at the time, the three members were arrested, and served twenty-two months in prison. Since their release, they are still known to operate under the Pussy Riot name individually and as a wider collective. After this latest performance which tried to direct international attention back to the fraught Russian politics still at large beyond the sporting bubble, Pussy Riot's significance as a protest movement to recognise has only heightened .

Their World Cup demonstration marked the eleventh anniversary of Dmitry Prigov, a Russian poet who Pussy Riot describe as having 'created an image of a policeman, a carrier of the heavenly nationhood, in the Russian culture' - an image they believe is not widely upheld by the Russian police force (who they refer to as 'earthy policemen') at the moment.

'NEWS FLASH! Just a few minutes ago four Pussy Riot members performed in the FIFA World Cup final match - "Policeman enters the Game', the group tweeted on Sunday night, sharing a full statement to explain the thought behind their World Cup take over.

'The heavenly policeman, according to Prigov, talks on the two-way with the God Himself. The earthly policeman gets ready to disperse rallies', they wrote. 'The heavenly policeman gently touches a flower in a field and enjoys Russian football team victories, while the earthly policeman feels indifferent to Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike. The heavenly policeman rises as an example of the nationhood, the earthly policeman hurts everyone.

'The heavenly policeman protects baby’s sleep, the earthly policeman persecutes political prisoners, imprisons people for “reposts” and “likes”.'

Pussy Riot were highlighting the way the football tournament had been policed in Russia this last month is prime example of the way things should be in their home country. 'The FIFA World Cup has reminded us of the possibilities of the heavenly policeman in the Great Russia of the future', they said, 'but the earthly policeman, entering the ruleless game breaks our world apart'.

After the match the four protesters were detained and have been charged with 'violation of spectators’ rights and and illegally wearing police symbols, ITV news reports. They could face fines of up to £139 or 160 hours of community service, however the attention drawn to the group and their cause has been internationally resounding. As for what they hope to achieve off the back of this and their various acts of protests, Pussy Riot outlined at the end of their statement: '1. Let all political prisoners free, 2. Not imprison for "likes", 3. Stop illegal arrests on rallies, 4. Allow political competition in the country, 5. Not fabricate criminal accusations and not keep people in jails for no reason, 6. Turn the earthly policeman into the heavenly policeman'.