New York, Nov 27

Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were nominated by Time magazine for the 2012 Person of the Year.

The punk band is among 40 candidates, who influenced news this year for better or worse. The list also includes US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Olympic champion Michael Phelps and others.

"In a year when so many voices of liberty and dissent have suffered harsh retribution, the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot has paid a particularly steep price for provocative political expression," the Time wrote describing the nominee.

Five women from Pussy Riot performed in late February a "punk prayer" in downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, which is Russia's biggest Orthodox church.

An edited clip of the band's protest posted online showed the group high-kicking near the entrance to the altar of the cathedral accompanied by the song "Holy S**t" urging the Virgin Mary to "drive (Vladimir) Putin out". The song mocked Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and believers in insulting terms.

Soon after, police arrested three of the suspected performers. The three women said their performance was a political protest against Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin ahead of the March 4 presidential elections that returned him to the Kremlin, but the court found the performers guilty of hooliganism aimed at inciting religious hatred and jailed them for two years each Aug 17.

The prison term for one of them was later replaced with a suspended sentence.

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