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“Freedom for Pussy Riot!” they cried. But three demonstrators were detained for a colourful show of support for the all-female punk band appearing at the Moscow courthouse opposite.

The masked protesters had climbed the balcony of a building facing the court and fired flares. They were removed by a crane.

The girl group is on trial for a protest at the altar of the main cathedral in the Russian capital against President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking in London, Putin has suggested the women may have faced swift punishment – without trial – for similar actions in Israel or in Muslim areas of Russia’s Caucasus.

“Nonetheless,” he said, “I don’t thing they should be judged so harshly for this.”

Accused of hooliganism, the punk trio has had backing from fellow performers and politicians in the West.

Russia’s opposition is far from reassured by Putin’s comments.

“What could he say when there is a giant campaign by Western stars to support Pussy Riot?” asked Russian opposition figure and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny. “That’s why he said something which would not enrage the London public very much, so he won’t get a tomato in his face.”

Pussy Riot face up to seven years in jail if convicted.

Navalny himself could face a decade behind bars in a separate case in which he has been accused of theft. He was able to enter the courthouse but was not allowed to testify as a defence witness for the group.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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