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You're reading: McCartney hopes Russia won’t punish punk band

LONDON - Singer Paul McCartney said on Thursday, Aug. 16, he hoped Russia would not punish members of punk band Pussy Riot, on trial for bursting into Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in balaclavas and short skirts and taunting the Kremlin from the altar.

The ex-Beatle joined other high-profile musicians including
Madonna and Pete Townshend of The Who in calling for clemency in
a case that has raised international concerns about Russia’s
commitment to free speech.

“I’m writing to show my support for you at this difficult
time,” McCartney said in an open letter released to the media.

“I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian
authorities would support the principle of free speech for all
their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for
your protest.”

He addressed the letter to Nadya, Katya and Masha, shortened
first names of the three women on trial — Nadezhda
Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30 and Maria
Alyokhina, 24.

They face up to three years in jail for their irreverent
stunt in February, and the court ruling on Friday will be
closely watched by the West for what it might say about Russian
human rights under President Vladimir Putin.

The women have been held in jail since shortly after their
performance, which offended many people in mostly Orthodox
Christian Russia.

“I hope you can stay strong and believe that I and many
others like me who believe in free speech will do everything in
our power to support you and the idea of artistic freedom,”
McCartney added, concluding his message “Wishing you the very
best of luck.”

McCartney follows other top entertainers in calling for the
women’s release.

Townshend, along with Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker and Neil
Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, published a letter earlier this
month to coincide with Putin’s visit to London for the Olympic
Games.

Madonna, performing at a concert in Moscow last week, donned
a balaclava similar to those worn by Pussy Riot members and
demanded they be freed to loud cheers from the crowd.

“I pray for their freedom,” she said.

Small protests have been held in other cities around the
world, and an informal group called “Free Pussy Riot!” has used
social media to urge people to demonstrate on Friday.

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