Madonna: Russia Needs To Release Jailed Punk Rockers

Madonna is calling on Russia to free three women in the protest punk bank Pussy Riot and, in doing so, has set herself up for protests there.

The singer arrived in Moscow on Monday to open a new gym for celebrities, and the next day performed at Olimpiysky stadium, but her visit coincided with courtroom drama that pitted the three punk rockers against Russia’s Orthodox Church and President Vladimir Putin, AFP reported.

The band members staged a performance inside the sprawling Christ the Saviour Cathedral during which they denounced the church for backing Putin and even called for the president to be ousted, the report stated. The February performance came just weeks after Putin was elected to the presidency, ANI reported.

The women have been held for five months before their trial and face three years in a corrective labor facility, with prosecutors calling their crimes so sever that “their correction is only possible in … isolation from society.”

Madonna has inserted herself Russia’s controversy, first by expressing surprise to a Russian reporter in an interview aired on Moscow television and then by taking a more direct stance, joining musicians like Sting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in calling the case “a tragedy,” AFP reported.

“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 … I hope they do not have to serve seven years in jail,” Madonna told Western journalists, with the comments being re-broadcast in Russia. “That would be a tragedy.”

Madonna’s Russia stance isn’t going over well with everyone. A spokesman for Russia’s Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers — a group that supports the church — said she is interfering with the country’s internal affairs.

“This little singer is openly mocking our laws, our traditions and our culture,” he said.

Other religious figures vowed to stage a large protest at Madonna’s Russian shows in Moscow and St. Petersburg.