Supporters of Russia's powerful Orthodox Church called on the
authorities Tuesday to ban Madonna's concerts after the US pop
icon called for the release of three members of the Pussy Riot
Madonna stepped into the controversy surrounding the three young
women by saying on her arrival in Moscow that she hoped the band
members would not have to serve more jail time for denouncing
President Vladimir Putin in a church.
"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 and I hope that they do not...
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 political protest band performed a "punk prayer" in Moscow's
Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February denouncing the Church's
open backing for Putin and calling for the Russian strongman's
ouster from power.
They have been held in pre-trial detention for five months and
face up to three years in jail each if convicted of hooliganism
motivated by religious hatred.
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
"This little singer is openly mocking our laws, our traditions
and our culture," he said.
Madonna is scheduled to perform later Tuesday in Moscow before
doing another show in Saint Petersburg.