Orthodoxy is not a religion that is widely understood in the West. So it’s actually the rare pundit that catches how offensive what this punk riot group was doing actually was. There’s a subtitled version of the video that helps. The video misses the positional problems. The picture screen, called an iconostasis is something like the old altar rails of Catholicism but with fairly elaborate rituals surrounding the structure. There are three doors, the center one is called the holy doors. As a lay person you’re not even supposed to walk in front of that door. It’s viewed as disrespectful, even sacrilegious. So the people in charge of order and discipline were a bit stuck because these girls were dancing in the sanctuary, in front of the iconostasis and extracting them actually meant that they had to break the rules too. Several times a Pussy Riot girl bowed and did a full prostration. One does these things towards the altar in Orthodoxy. Reversing this as the protesters did is viewed as idolatry. Who, exactly, are they bowing to? That’s the genesis of the “devil dancing” talk in their trial.
Putin may have been a target but he certainly wasn’t the target. Their attack had a much wider range of victims. This was an attack on Orthodoxy, an attack on symphonia, the concept of church and state in complementary roles and mutual respect, and also an attack on Putin.
The maximum sentence was seven years for the crime of hooliganism. The prosecutors asked for three. The judge set sentence at two.
In the US, the results might not have been very different except for the name of the crime on the charge sheet. Simple criminal trespass in Indiana where I live is punishable between 6 months and 3 years with a fine up to $10,000. As this wasn’t Pussy Riot’s first case of trespass and outrageous behavior, this is exactly the sort of case that would tilt towards the heavier end of the penalty range.