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Madonna Criticized by Russia for Supporting Anti-Putin Punks

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- A top Russian official criticized pop singer Madonna after she spoke out in support of members of an all-female punk band facing jail for a protest against President Vladimir Putin in the country’s main Orthodox cathedral.

Referring to Madonna with a letter commonly used in Russian as an abbreviation for prostitute, Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister in charge of industry and defense, said on his Twitter Inc. account that the pop star “as she gets older, wants to lecture everybody on morality, especially on world tours.”

Challenged by a Twitter user who insisted that Madonna was championing free speech, Rogozin replied: “Either take off the cross, or wear underwear.” The deputy premier’s spokeswoman, Lidia Mikhailova, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The U.S. and European Union have condemned the prosecution of the three Pussy Riot band members, who have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Music and film stars including Peter Gabriel, Yoko Ono, Sting and Danny DeVito have rallied to their defense. Pussy Riot performed what they called a “punk prayer” in February inside Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral, urging the removal of Putin, who extended his 12-year rule in presidential elections in March.

‘Something Courageous’

Madonna, at a concert in Moscow on Aug. 7, appealed for their freedom. “I think that these three girls -- Masha, Katya, Nadya -- I think that they have done something courageous,” she said. Madonna scrawled the words “Pussy Riot” on her back, and put on a balaclava mask similar to that worn by the band members during their protest.

Prosecutors have demanded a three-year prison sentence for Maria Alekhina, 24, Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, who are on trial for hooliganism and inciting religious hatred. The verdict in the trial will be delivered on Aug. 17.

The three defendants, who were among five Pussy Riot band members who staged the performance in masks and skimpy dresses, face a maximum of seven years in prison under the Russian criminal code.

Supporters of Pussy Riot will stage rallies in various cities around the world on the day of the verdict, including London, Paris, New York and Brussels, the women’s lawyer, Mark Feigin, said by phone today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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