Russian police temporarily detained six activists protesting on Friday against the incarceration of punk rockers Pussy Riot and charged them with breaking rules on demonstrations.
Activists, actors and writers took turns holding posters demanding freedom for jailed band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, and Maria Alekhina, 24, in order to comply with rules on one-person demonstrations which do not require permits.
The protest was timed to take place on International Women’s Day, a holiday in Russia.
Russian media reported that police stepped in to make arrests when more than one person at a time held posters in support of the women, who are serving two-year sentences on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.
Moscow police said the six people detained at the protest in front of the Federal Penitentiary Service building were charged with administrative misdemeanors for breaking the one-person protest law. They were all released and handed orders for court hearings tomorrow.
US pop star Madonna and Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi are among those who have called for the two jailed Pussy Riot members to be freed.
They were convicted in August last year after performing, balaclava-clad, an anti-Kremlin “prayer” early last year at Moscow’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral.
Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, the third member of the band who was jailed but released in October, also joined the protest on Friday, according to the street-art collective Voina (“War”).
Russian media reported Tolokonnikova submitted a request for early release this week. Alekhina’s request has already been refused.
Asked on Thursday whether the two should be paroled, Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to comment.
“It’s not up to me, but it is a thing of procedures and applicable legislation,” Putin said.
In October, he called the Pussy Riot sentencing fair.
“They wanted this, they got it,” he told the NTV television channel in an interview then.
At another central Moscow protest on Friday, police detained about 20 people for what they said was unruly behavior.
No arrests were made at a third demonstration on Friday, organized by mothers, wives, sisters and female friends of opposition members jailed after protests on the eve of Putin’s inauguration in May.