Days after the members of the Russian band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in a grueling penal colony, hackers attacked the website of the court that sentenced them.
AnonymousRussia, an off-shoot of the worldwide “hacktivist” group Anonymous, claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack. “We are American group Anonymous. We don't forget and we don't forgive,” read the post, written in Russian.
This attack is the latest in a long series of protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man activists contend is leading the country down a dangerous, autocratic path.
The three female members of Pussy Riot were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” In February, the band interrupted a service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the main Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. Dressed in masks and singing a crude ditty begging the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Putin, Pussy Riot’s protest made international waves.
Icons like Madonna and Paul McCartney have denounced the heavy sentences and seemingly unfair trial, along with many Western leaders. Putin, for his part, has acted unfazed by the massive amounts of criticism leveled at him by Westerners and his own citizens.
The website for the capital city’s Khamovniki district court was running normally by the afternoon of the attack, but the hackers’ message was up and running for several hours.
"Putin's thieving gang is plundering our country! Wake up, comrades!" shouted the heading of the court’s website. The hackers called for the release of the three convicted band members. The “justice system has to be transparent,” their post proclaimed.
Along with the inflammatory posting, the hackers uploaded a Pussy Riot tune and a video clip featuring Azis, a Bulgarian pop star.
It is doubtful the hacking raised Putin’s eyebrow, but the public display may spur more Russians to action. Even though Western superstars have been vocal about the trial, home-grown musicians have been much more demur and polls suggest many Russian citizens side with Putin over Pussy Riot.
The hacking attack angered local authorities who claimed a federal investigation into the hacking was underway.
Anonymous is a loose coalition of hackers that’s been around for the better part of a decade. The group’s aims have taken a vocal political bent in the past few years, and in 2012 they claimed several online attacks, including incidents involving British, Chinese and Indian websites. Some sites were defaced like the Khamovniki court’s, while others were shut down.