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Protesters greet Madonna in Russia over her support of Pussy Riot

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, August 7, 2012 14:15 EDT
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Madonna via cinemafestival / Shutterstock.com
 
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US pop icon Madonna found herself in hot water in Moscow on Tuesday after she waded intoRussia’s fiercest controversy by calling for the release of three women in the Pussy Riot protest punk band.

The one-time “material girl” and current campaigner for human rights causes arrived in Moscow on Monday to open a new gym for celebrities and then entertain thousands at the Olimpiysky stadium the following day.

But her visit coincided with a courtroom drama pitting three women in their 20s against the growing might of Russia’s Orthodox Church and even President Vladimir Putin himself.

Band members had staged a stunt performance inside Moscow’s massive Christ the Saviour Cathedral during which they belted out words to a song denouncing the Church’s backing for Putin and calling for the Russian strongman’s ouster.

The women have already been in pre-trial detention for five months and now face three years in a corrective labour facility after prosecutors called their crime was so severe “their correction is only possible in… isolation from society.”

Madonna had already expressed surprise at the case when informed about it by a Russian television reporter in an interviewed aired in Moscow last week.

But she added her voice much more strongly to those of other superstars such as Sting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Moscow by calling the case “a tragedy” and underscoring the important links between politics and art.

“I am against censorship and my whole career I always promoted freedom of expression, freedom of speech, so obviously I think what’s happening to them is unfair … I hope they do not have to serve seven years in jail,” Madonna told Western journalists in comments picked up by Russian media.

“That would be a tragedy,” the US superstar said.

The “punk prayer” performance saw the band prance before the alter in their traditional knit balaclavas and tight neon dresses for about 50 seconds before stunned security guards moved in.

It followed a similar stunt staged on Red Square and preceded by a few weeks Putin’s resounding victory in March presidential elections that came amid protests in Moscow.

Madonna said “art should be political” and called the song Pussy Riot’s performance a fully justified act.

“I think art through history, historically speaking, art always reflects what is going on socially,” she said.

But that view along with Madonna’s open support for gay and lesbian causes as well as a general propensity to cause controversy on stage appeared to fall on deaf ears of organisations that have found new strength under Putin’s rule.

A spokesman for Russia’s Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers — a support group for the Church that often wages fierce political campaigns — accused Madonna of interfering in Russia’s internal affairs and putting pressure on the courts.

“It is not in our power to ban her, but we call on the authorities — who position themselves as Orthodox believers — to do so,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

“This little singer is openly mocking our laws, our traditions and our culture,” he said.

Other religious figures vowed to stage loud protests outside Madonna’s concert later Tuesday in Moscow and another performance this week in Saint Petersburg.

“We will drop by to say ‘no’ to blasphemy… and to explain our position to those who plan to attend her concert,” said Kirill Frolov of the Orthodox Experts Association.

“A woman calling herself Madonna intends to desecrate the cross,” Frolov told Interfax. “We will not stand for that.”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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