Russia arrests anti-Putin punks after church protest

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Russia on Sunday arrested two members of female punk group Pussy Riot on hooliganism charges with a maximum 7-year jail term after they tried to perform in a church, their lawyer said.

"As of this morning, two of the girls have been arrested and held in a pre-trial detention centre," lawyer Nikolai Polozov said, with one woman and a male organiser released as witnesses.

Pussy Riot, a group of women who perform radical protest songs against Vladimir Putin in public places, on February 21 attempted to perform a song in the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.

Dressed in bright dresses and balaclavas, they sang a few words of a song before security guards grabbed them. All the women managed to escape.

But Polozov told AFP two members of the group had been arrested on the charge of hooliganism, which includes motivations of religious hatred, by an organised group, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

The two women have young children, Polozov said, and announced they would launch a hunger strike demanding their release.

Pussy Riot, a group whose members use aliases, began giving concerts last year and in January gave a brief performance on Red Square before being detained. Two members were later fined.

Their choice to perform in a church outraged many believers, with around 70 percent of Russians describing themselves as Orthodox Christians.

Russia's leaders often attend services in the Church of Christ the Saviour, a landmark which was rebuilt in the 1990s after being destroyed by the Bolsheviks and the site turned into an open-air swimming pool.

© 2012 AFP

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