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You're reading: Russia claims killer demands Pussy Riot freed

MOSCOW — The bodies of two slain women were found in Russia beneath a scrawled message demanding freedom for the jailed members of the Pussy Riot band, officials said Thursday.

While a Russian investigator cautioned
that the killer was possibly trying to mislead police by drawing
attention to the punk provocateurs, the alleged link between a killer
and anti-Putin protesters was immediately seized upon by Russian media
and pro-Kremlin publicists.

Some publications ran headlines
claiming that Pussy Riot supporters “committed” or “inspired” a double
homicide. The coverage was full of the mostly negative terms used by
Kremlin-friendly television networks and media in their coverage of the
protesters’ trial.

A Moscow court earlier this month sentenced
three Pussy Riot members to two years in jail for performing a “punk
prayer” against President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow cathedral in
February. The trial, widely seen as Kremlin-orchestrated, caused an
international furor, with celebrities such as Paul McCartney urging
Russian authorities to free the band.

The jailed band members’
attorney said on Twitter that “what happened in Kazan is horrible,”
calling the case “either a horrendous provocation or a psychopathic”
case.

“I am sorry that some freaks are using Pussy Riot’s band
name,” Nikolai Polozov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Russia’s
Investigative Committee said the women, aged 76 and 38, were killed
late last week in their apartment in the central city of Kazan with the
words “Free Pussy Riot” written on the wall in English, “presumably”
with blood.

The substance has not yet been confirmed, it said in the statement.

The
agency did not provide the women’s names or reveal details about their
occupations or whether they had any connection to the band. The Russian
tabloid Lifenews quoted an unnamed investigator as saying their faces
and bodies were disfigured by multiple stab wounds.

An
investigator in Kazan said the murderer was either psychotic or a drug
addict who was trying to cover up the crime by attributing it to the
band’s supporters.

The killer “was trying to avoid suspicion” by misleading police, investigator Andrey Sheptitsky said in televised remarks.

That sense of caution was ignored by many Russian media outlets.

Kristina
Potupchik, a pro-Putin blogger and former spokeswoman for a militant
youth group known for its violent pranks against opposition and Kremlin
critics, said in a post that the band’s supporters “will not get away”
after the killing. She also compared them to U.S. mass murderer Charles
Manson, who also used the blood of his victims to write on the walls of
their houses.

The leader of an Orthodox youth group that has
accosted and assaulted Pussy Riot supporters claimed that they are
capable of committing “any” crime.

“The infernal force that drives
them hates God, believers and humankind in general,” Dmitry Tsorionov
told Interfax on Thursday. “These people are capable of committing any
crime, and nothing but force and law can stop them.”

The country’s
dominant Orthodox Church has called the band’s stunt sacrilegious but
hundreds of artists, musicians and other intellectuals have signed
petitions urging authorities to free them.

Several wooden crosses that stood outside Orthodox churches in Russia and neighboring Ukraine have been toppled by people who have claimed to be the band’s supporters.

The band’s manager and the husband of one of the jailed rockers, however, said the band disapproved of the vandalism.

A
poll released Thursday by the state-run VTsIOM polling agency showed
that one-third of Russians considered the two-year jail sentence for the
band members too harsh, while another 31 per cent found it appropriate.
The survey questioned 1,600 people nationwide on Aug. 25-26 and gave a
margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

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