MOSCOW - Rock artists including Sting, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Franz Ferdinand, and Faith No More have decided to challenge the Kremlin over its detention of an all-female Russian punk rock band.
Five members of the band called Pussy Riot were detained in February after they performed an anti-Putin song, jumping up and down at the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Church. The group, clad in their trademark colored baklavas and spandex outfits, sang about a divine intervention that would remove President Vladimir Putin from power.
Three members of the group have been held in jail without a trial ever since. Officials recently announced their pre-trial detention has been extended until 2013. They face charges of "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred," which could result in up to seven years in prison.
In a statement on his website today, the singer Sting waded into the controversy, joining with Amnesty International in calling for release of the punk rockers.
"Dissent is a legitimate and essential right in any democracy and modern politicians must accept this fact with tolerance. A sense of proportion - and a sense of humor - is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. Surely the Russian authorities will completely drop these spurious charges and allow the women, these artists, to get back to their lives and to their children," Sting said in a statement ahead of his concert later in the day in Moscow.
Amnesty International has called the detained rockers "prisoners of conscience."
During a concert in Moscow last weekend, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand took up the group's cause from the stage.
Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer for Red Hot Chili Peppers, wore one of the band's shirts on stage and Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand dedicated a song to the group and to "all of those musicians that end up in jail for just saying what they think."
Kapranos doubled down on Twitter, responding to a Russian who said the group mocked Russian traditions.
"Russia's traditions are strong and you should be proud of them. When you're strong it means nothing if someone mocks you," he tweeted.
Earlier this month, members of the American rock group Faith No More sported colored baklavas in solidarity with the group during a concert in Moscow.
Supporters of the Russian rockers have also appealed to pop diva Madonna, who will play a concert in Moscow next week, to take up their cause. Madonna has already caused some controversy over her plans to denounce St. Petersburg's harsh new anti-gay law when she performs there on Aug. 9.