Madonna Shows Her Support for Jailed Russian Punk Band Pussy Riot at Moscow Concert (Video)

4:05 PM PST 08/07/2012 by Vladimir Kozlov

UPDATED: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Terry Gilliam and now the queen of pop speak out against the arrest and detainment of three musicians facing up to seven years in prison for "hooliganism." THR offers a primer to the political firestorm.

MOSCOW -- Madonna is the latest high-profile celebrity to throw her support behind three jailed members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot.

A hearing for the highly publicized band is in progress in a Moscow court and drawing international attention, and during a Monday concert in Moscow, the queen of pop appeared onstage with the words "Pussy Riot" stenciled on her back (see photo). Not necessarily related to the political firestorm, the venue had received threats against U.S. citizens attending the Madonna concert and issued a warning to attendees.

The Pussy Riot story has snowballed far beyond Russian borders. A primer: The three young women were arrested in the wake of an illegal gig, which Pussy Riot staged in March at Moscow’s the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the country’s main Orthodox church, shortly before the presidential vote that brought Vladimir Putin back to the country’s top office.

During the short gig at the cathedral, “a punk prayer,” five participating Pussy Riot members covering their faces with balaclavas -- similar to a ski mask -- and wearing bright-colored tights, performed a song with the lyrics “Mother of God, drive Putin away.”

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Among Western celebrities who have expressed support for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, are Danny DeVito, Stephen Fry, Terry Gilliam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Franz Ferdinand, Peter Gabriel, Faith No More, Sting and, more recently, Peaches, who is recording a song and shooting a video devoted to the three women.

Midway through her show at Moscow's Olimpiisky Sports Center, Madonna said: "The three girls -- Masha, Katya, Nadya -- I think they have done something courageous. I think they have paid the price and I pray for their freedom. They deserve the right to be free." She also put on a balaclava similar to the ones Pussy Riot members wore at their gigs and performed the song "Like a Virgin."

All of the celebrity supporters have called for the band members’ release, saying the accusations against them and the fact that they already have spent five months in pretrial detention are disproportionate to the charge against them.

During the pretrial detention, the jailed Pussy Riot members were refused bail several times. They are being accused of “hooliganism” and face up to seven years in prison. Many in Russia believe that the case is politically motivated and comes as an act of revenge on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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In late July, Amnesty International said it considers the women to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs, and called on the Russia authorities to immediately release the trio.

In late June, a number of prominent Russian cultural figures, including film directors Alexei Popogrebsky, Boris Khlebnikov and Alexei German, signed a letter asking the court to release the trio.

Meanwhile, there have been voices in the Russian cultural community calling for an even harsher punishment for Pussy Riot. Earlier this month, singer-songwriter Yelena Vaenga took to Twitter to lash out against the jailed musicians. Elsewhere on Twitter, a FreePussyRiot handle was created.

This isn’t the first time the outspoken band has courted controversy. Pussy Riot first came to the limelight last year after a series of illegal performances with strong political messages, including one on Moscow’s Red Square.

A verdict is expected to be announced on Aug. 17.

Watch a video of Madonna's comments fromt the stage below:

Twitter: @THRMusic

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