Pussy Riot message found at murder scene in Russia

Moscow

The scandal surrounding the imprisoned feminist punk collective, Pussy Riot, took a dark turn yesterday as investigators tried to link a double murder to the group.

Investigators said that the bodies of a 76-year-old woman and her 38-year-old daughter were discovered with multiple stab wounds in their apartment in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan in central Russia. The slogan "Free Pussy Riot" was smeared in English above their bodies – apparently in blood, investigators said.

Neighbours said the victims had no known connection to the three members of the punk group. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich have been jailed for two years on hooliganism charges for performing a politically charged "punk prayer" criticising President Vladimir Putin inside a Moscow cathedral. Investigators said they believed the murder happened last weekend. Details of the Pussy Riot link were published yesterday on Life news, a tabloid website known to have close links to the authorities. But an article in a Kazan newspaper reported the double murder with no mention of the slogan above the bodies.

Lawyers and supporters of the group immediately denounced the find as a "provocation" designed to discredit the jailed women. "The main question is when the slogan was written," Nikolay Polozov, a lawyer for the members of the female art collective, wrote on Twitter.

The murders follow reports of vandalism that the authorities have attributed to supporters of the jailed band members. At least four orthodox crosses outside churches in the Chelyabinsk and Arkhangelsk regions have been chopped down. A group using the name "People's Will" claimed responsibility for the attacks, to protest at the church's involvement.

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