Chili Peppers, Sting Voice Support for Jailed Russian Band Pussy Riot

Punk group on trial for 'inciting religious hatred'

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina of PuNadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot behind bars during a court hearing in Moscowssy Riot behind bars during a court hearing in Moscow
Andrey Smirnov/AFP/GettyImages
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot behind bars during a court hearing in Moscow
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Madonna, Sting, Peter Gabriel and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are among the latest music stars to voice their support for members of the jailed Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who are on trial in Moscow for inciting religious hatred after they performed a song mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin on the altar of an Orthodox cathedral.

The Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis and Flea have presented letters of support to Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of accused Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – and during a performance on Sunday in Moscow, Kiedis wore a Pussy Riot T-shirt. In a statement on his website, Sting said he found it "appalling" that the band could face up to seven years in prison, while Gabriel addressed a letter of support to the band that Russian producer Alexander Cheparukhin posted on Facebook, and Madonna told a Russian TV channel she was "sorry" to hear the musicians had been arrested.

Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kaparanos also addressed the situation at their Moscow gig over the weekend, dedicating "This Fire" to Pussy Riot, according to The Guardian. Later, Kaparanos described Putin on Twitter as "the worst kind of hypocrite" for professing to be a fan of John Lennon while attempting "to imprison contemporary musicians who express their political views." 

Pussy Riot have also drawn support from some of the riot grrrl rockers who helped inspire the band, including Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill, and Corin Tucker, formerly of Sleater-Kinney and Heavens to Betsy. And in June, in his first public performance after the death of bandmate Adam Yauch, Beastie Boy Adam "Ad Rock" Horovitz appeared at a benefit for the group.

At the opening of their trial yesterday, Tolokonnikova and bandmates Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich said they never intended to offend religious sensibilities and denied their actions were criminal, The New York Times reports.

"If someone was offended by our performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, I am ready to recognize that we committed an ethical mistake," Tolokonnikova wrote in a statement her lawyer read in court. "This is exactly the error, since we did not have the conscious intention to offend anyone."

The three musicians were arrested in March after performing a "punk prayer service" in February on the altar of Moscow's main cathedral. The song, part of a series of confrontational performances in public spaces during Russia's presidential election campaign, included the plea, "Holy Mother, send Putin packing!"