Release Pussy Riot women, says Medvedev

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The Independent Online

Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister, has called for three members of the punk band Pussy Riot to be freed, saying further time in prison would be "unproductive".

Mr Medvedev's comments yesterday could signal the band members' imminent release as their case comes up for appeal on 1 October.

"I feel that extending the prison time in this case is counterproductive," Mr Medvedev said. "In my opinion, probation would have been sufficient punishment, considering all the time they've already spent behind bars."

The women had already spent more than five months in jail when they were convicted in August of hooliganism driven by religious hatred and sentenced to two years.

They were arrested after performing a raucous "prayer" inside Moscow's cathedral asking the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin, who took over from Mr Medvedev as President earlier this year for his third term at the helm, despite increasing suggestions of vote-rigging.

The imprisonment of the women has drawn protests around the world as it highlighted Mr Putin's intensifying crackdown on any form of dissent.

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