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Two members of the Pussy Riot punk performance collective are in jail for "hooliganism." (file photo)
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International says more than 100 prominent musicians have signed an open letter calling for the release of jailed members of the Russian feminist punk performance art collective Pussy Riot.

Amnesty said on July 22 that Adele, U2, Madonna, Yoko Ono, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and Sting were among those who signed the letter.

The musicians urged Russian authorities to free 23-year old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and 25-year-old Maria Alyokhina, who received two-year sentences last August for protesting against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

Their parole appeal hearings are scheduled later this week.

The letter, organized by Amnesty International, says the impact of Pussy Riot's "shockingly unjust trial and imprisonment has spread far and wide, especially among your fellow artists, musicians, and citizens around the world."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
Russian Patriarch Kirill releasing white pigeons on the porch of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kremlin in Moscow in April.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said that the legal recognition of same-sex marriage is "a very dangerous sign of the apocalypse."

Patriarch Kirill told a congregation at Kazan Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square on July 21 that such recognition "means people are choosing a path of self-destruction."

The patriarch criticized the states that have legalized same-sex marriage, saying that "some countries approve their choice in favor of sin and justify it by law."

Kirill also said he supports a ban on "homosexual propoganda" recently signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993 but remains stigmatized in a country where the Orthodox Church still holds considerable influence.

Gay-rights parades are forbidden and activists have been brutally attacked.

Based on reporting by dpa, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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