Pussy Riot punk band remains defiant of Putin's Russia

The punk rock band "Pussy Riot" remains a voice of dissent in Russia, even though some of its members are in prison or in hiding

The following script is from "Crackdown in Russia" which aired on March 24, 2013. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Shachar Bar-On and Alexandra Poolos are the producers.

Since he's been in power in Russia, Vladimir Putin has steadily cracked-down on democratic freedoms and the protesters who support them - a crackdown that intensified after his reelection as president a year ago. Nothing symbolizes this better than the arrest last March of a group of young feminists after they staged a protest against Putin in Moscow's largest cathedral. It got a lot of attention, since the Orthodox Church is one of the most revered institutions in post-Soviet Russia.

The young women have become the poster girls of Russian dissent, unlikely considering they're a punk band on YouTube that makes lewd gestures in cartoonish get-ups. Most of what they do is deliberately offensive; it might offend you -- like, for starters, their obscene, but attention-grabbing name: Pussy Riot.

This is what got them arrested. Five girls in the church, in their trademark masks called balaklavas praying to the Virgin Mary to drive Putin away.

Using vile obscenities, they blast Putin for limiting freedoms and jailing protesters. The whole thing lasts only 51 seconds before they're shut down. It looked silly like a prank, which made the harsh punishments seem so out of proportion: two of them were sent to labor camps for this.

Now a year later, we tracked down the other three who were at the church. Two are in hiding; Katya Samutsevich isn't. She was put on trial and convicted, but released after seven months because she never actually danced on the altar. That's her that day in white.

Lesley Stahl: Do you have any regrets about what happened that day?

Katya Samutsevich: No, of course not. Look what's happened. Since the election, Putin has brought in a new level of repressive government measures in Russia.

She says they chose Moscow's biggest Russian Orthodox cathedral because in last year's election the patriarch called Putin a miracle from God.

Katya Samutsevichl: The elections weren't legitimate. There was vote rigging. There was false counting. It was clear that the president put himself in power.

Lesley Stahl: But are you advocating the overthrow of this government here?

Katya Samutsevichl: Yes. We want the government to leave power, because we consider it illegitimate. But we're advocating for a peaceful overthrow.

The band members are idealistic and brave...and well-educated. Katya is a computer engineer. She was living at home with her dad and working in a government arms plant when she decided to become a political provocateur.

She began with anti-authority stunts, like surprising female cops by kissing them, then posting the video online.

Her partner in crime was Nadia Tolokonnikova, a philosophy student and seasoned agitator.

They formed their punk band as Moscow was boiling over with protests in 2011, after Putin announced his bid for reelection. It was Russia's "Arab Spring" and the band, made up of 12 or so feminists who call themselves girls or "devooshky" - set out to change the world.

They staged public disturbances like this one in the middle of Red Square, right under the Kremlin, howling, "Riot! Riot!" Shouting a profanity: that Putin was so scared of protesters - quote: "he peed in his pants."

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