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Two members of punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are being sought by Russian police, have fled the country, the band’s Twitter account says.

Three members of the group were jailed this month for staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.

The pair who fled has not been named but the husband of one of the jailed women said the duo had taken part in the cathedral protest in February.

Many in the West condemned the Pussy Riot sentences as disproportionate.

However, the Kremlin has rejected accusations by musicians and some governments that the case was politically motivated.

Two members of punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are being sought by Russian police, have fled the country

Two members of punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are being sought by Russian police, have fled the country

Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and jailed for two years.

The Twitter account called Pussy Riot Group said: “In regard to the pursuit, two of our members have successfully fled the country! They are recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new actions!”

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, told Reuters news agency: “Since the Moscow police said they are searching for them, they will keep a low profile for now. They are in a safe place beyond the reach of the Russian police.”

He suggested that this meant a country that had no extradition arrangement with Russia.

Pyotr Verzilov told Reuters: “Twelve or even 14 members who are still in Russia actively participate in the band’s work now, it’s a big collective.”

The jailed women are appealing against their sentences.

Following the verdict, Russian police said they were actively searching for other members of the group who had taken part in the cathedral protest.

But they gave no names and did not say how many were being sought.

The jailed women said their performance of a “punk prayer” on 21 February in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral had been to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for Vladimir Putin.

Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”, enraged the Orthodox Church.

 

 

Russian police are searching for other members of the punk band Pussy Riot who took part in the anti-Putin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral.

The search is separate from the trial that led to three band members being jailed for two years – a verdict that drew an international outcry.

Investigators have not named the new suspects, nor said how many are being sought.

Police have also questioned ex-chess champion Garry Kasparov for allegedly biting a policeman’s hand at a protest.

Garry Kasparov denied the allegation and accused the police of having detained him unjustly and hit him. He was arrested with several other opposition activists outside the Moscow court before the Pussy Riot trio were sentenced on Friday.

Russian police are searching for other members of the punk band Pussy Riot who took part in the anti-Putin protest in Moscow's main cathedral

Russian police are searching for other members of the punk band Pussy Riot who took part in the anti-Putin protest in Moscow's main cathedral

The women – Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 – were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

Along with other members of their band, they staged a flashmob-style performance of a protest song near the altar of Christ the Saviour cathedral on 21 February.

Reports say two other band members participated. But last week seven unidentified Pussy Riot members in balaclavas met Western journalists and said the trial had only made them more determined.

The three sentenced on Friday said they did not know the other band members’ names, because they had an anonymity rule and just used nicknames for each other.

The British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has published a two-page open letter of support for Pussy Riot, joining other global celebrities in deploring the Russian authorities’ handling of the case.

Stephen Fry condemned the “monstrous injustice and preposterous tyranny” in the case, calling the women’s two-year prison sentence “astoundingly unfair and disproportionate”.

“Putin hasn’t made a monster of himself. He has made a fool of himself. It is often said that had the world laughed at Hitler early enough he would never have taken the hold on power he did.

“I do not call Putin a Hitler. Yet. But it is time to laugh him out of this stance and you out of incarceration,” Stephen Fry wrote.

In Helsinki on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against overreacting, saying the judicial process had not yet been exhausted.

“There is still the possibility of filing an appeal and the lawyers for the young girls plan to do so,” he said, quoted by AFP news agency.

“Let’s not draw any rash conclusions and go off into hysterics,” Sergei Lavrov said.

 

The three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot accused of hooliganism have been jailed for two years after staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.

Judge Marina Syrova convicted the women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, saying they had “crudely undermined social order”.

The women say the protest, in February, was directed at the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for Vladimir Putin.

The US, UK and EU all criticized the sentences as “disproportionate”.

Prosecutors had been seeking a three-year jail sentence for the women.

Judge Marina Syrova said Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, had offended the feelings of Orthodox believers and shown a “complete lack of respect”.

“Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism – in other words, a grave violation of public order,” Judge Marina Syrova said.

Along with other members of their band, the women staged a flashmob-style performance of their song close to the altar in the cathedral on 21 February.

Judge Marina Syrova convicted Pussy Riot members of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred

Judge Marina Syrova convicted Pussy Riot members of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred

Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”, enraged the Orthodox Church – its leader Patriarch Kirill said it amounted to blasphemy.

Vladimir Putin was elected for a third term as president two weeks later.

Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, watching Friday’s proceedings from inside a glass-walled cage in the courtroom, smiled as the widely predicted conviction was announced.

The judge then took three hours to read the verdict, before handing down “two years deprivation of liberty in a penal colony” for each defendant.

“Considering the nature and degree of the danger posed by what was done, the defendants’ correction is possible only through an actual punishment,” Judge Marina Surova said.

One man in the courtroom shouted “shame” at the sentencing, and there were chants and whistles from the band’s supporters outside.

Nadezdha Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said: “Russia’s image was quite scary even before [this]. What happened now is a clear sign that Russia is moving towards becoming more like China or North Korea.”

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny added: “They are in jail because it is Putin’s personal revenge. This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin.”

The defendants’ lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, said they would not appeal to President Vladimir Putin for a pardon. However, there will be a legal appeal against the verdict.

Amnesty International said the ruling was a “bitter blow” for freedom of expression in Russia.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the UK’s Foreign Office criticized the severity of the sentences.

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.”

On Thursday, Nadezdha Tolokonnikova had said she was “not bitter about being in jail”. But, speaking through her lawyer on Twitter, she said: “Politically, I am furious.”

“Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country,” she said.

The women have been detained for the past five months.

Associated Press news agency said a number of protesters had been arrested outside the court before the sentencing was announced, including ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov and opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov.

There were also pro-Pussy Riot protests in Paris, where demonstrators in Igor Stravinsky square chanted “Freedom”, and in Kiev, where women protesters sawed down a wooden cross in a central square.

Other shows of support took place in Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona.

The band has also had vocal support from artists including Paul McCartney and Madonna, and from politicians.

Critics of the band have also been demonstrating, saying the stunt was an insult to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Igor Kim from Moscow said: “Shouting and screaming and spreading hate in Church is unacceptable and is contrary with Christian ethics.”

Valentina Ivanova, a retired doctor, told Reuters: “What they did showed disrespect towards everything, and towards believers first of all.”

One protester outside court in Moscow simply shouted: “Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell.”

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Russian punk group Pussy Riot plans to continue their anti-Putin protests despite the trial of three colleagues on hooliganism charges.

Seven of the balaclava-clad women spoke out about their protest campaign during an interview with BBC, using only their nicknames.

A band member called Mother said “of course” when asked if Pussy Riot would carry on protesting as before.

“We’ll try to follow our principles, of freedom of speech… we will do it to support our sisters in prison.”

Russian punk group Pussy Riot plans to continue their anti-Putin protests despite the trial of three colleagues on hooliganism charges

Russian punk group Pussy Riot plans to continue their anti-Putin protests despite the trial of three colleagues on hooliganism charges

Some of the interviewees took part in the protest on 21 February which led to three being arrested and put on trial.

The verdict is expected on Friday. Russian prosecutors have asked for three years in prison for the women.

Pussy Riot played a song attacking Russian President Vladimir Putin at the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral.

The band sided with protesters who staged huge marches against Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party after December parliamentary elections marred by many alleged abuses.

In the interview, another band member, Terminator, said: “Nobody can mute us, nobody can forbid us to do what we want… We want Russia to be a better place… We won’t stop, we would do it again.”

Terminator continued: “I hope somebody in the government realizes now they’re doing something very awful, very bad and have to stop it.”

She said the church protest was “not an act of hooliganism, definitely not an anti-religious act” but a “political performance” against President Vladimir Putin.