Madonna Calls for Pussy Riot's Release at Moscow Show

'I think they have done something courageous,' singer says

Madonna performs in Moscow.
Mikhail Metzel/AFP/GettyImages
Madonna performs in Moscow.
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Madonna paused during a concert last night in Moscow to urge Russian authorities to free three members of the band Pussy Riot, who are on trial for staging a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin in a Russian Orthodox cathedral in March, Reuters reports

The pop star's expressions of solidarity also included wearing a balaclava similar to the ones worn by Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich during protests; and revealing the band's name written on her back after stripping down to a black bra.

"I know there are many sides to every story, and I mean no disrespect to the church or the government, but I think that these three girls – Masha, Katya, Nadya – I think that they have done something courageous," Madonna told the crowd.

"I pray for their freedom," she added.

As a verdict nears in what some observers have called a politically motivated show trial, Tolokonnikova told the court earlier this week that their performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral was a political statement that was never intended to offend religious sensibilities. "We sang 'Black habit, gold shoulder straps' about the fusion of KGB and the church," she said. "Our goal was political protest in artistic form. There was no hate, not a drop."

Madonna joins artists including Patti Smith, Sting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in calling for the release of Pussy Riot, whose members could face seven years in prison on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." Putin, Russia's president, has said he hopes the women "are not judged too severely," and a prosecutor this week asked for three-years sentences.

"I know that everyone in this auditorium, if you are here as my fan, feels they have the right to be free," Madonna said during her set.

U.S. and Russian authorities had warned of the threat of violence against performers and spectators at the pop icon's two Moscow performances this week, Billboard reports. The U.S. Consulate General issued a warning that read: "While we expect that enhanced security measures will be put in place at both concerts, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain vigilant regarding their personal security, and to be aware of their surroundings at all times, especially in crowded areas."