MOSCOW — Russian security guards broke up a demonstration Wednesday in support of protest punk group Pussy Riot outside the Moscow cathedral where the women performed this year, activists said.


The protesters, wearing the group's trademark coloured balaclavas, were holding individual letters that spelled the phrase "Blessed are the merciful" outside the Church of Christ the Saviour, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

"Guards detained three young men... who were trying to hold a protest on the church steps in support of Pussy Riot," a police source told ITAR-TASS, adding that the detainees were taken to a station for questioning.

The Ridus citizen journalism website posted a video of white-shirted security guards approaching the activists and pulling away the letters of the protest message before chasing off demonstrators and journalists.

"The guards of the church used physical force, not only on the activists but on journalists covering the protest," a photographer from the liberal daily Novaya Gazeta wrote on the newspaper's website.

Rustem Adagamov, a prominent blogger involved in the protests against the re-election of Vladimir Putin as president this year, wrote on Twitter that the guards "broke cameras and beat up several people".

Three members of Pussy Riot are awaiting verdicts on Friday in their prosecution for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after they sang a protest anthem against Putin in the cathedral in February.

Russian prosecutors have asked for three years' prison for the women.