Sir Paul McCartney is the latest star to send his support to the Russian band Pussy Riot.

“I’m writing to show my support for you at this difficult time,” writes the former Beatle on his website. " I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest.

“Many people in the civilized world are allowed to voice their opinions and as long as they do not hurt anyone in doing so I believe this is the best way forward for all societies. I hope you can stay strong and believe that I and many others like me who believe in free speech will do everything in our power to support you and the idea of artistic freedom.”

McCartney has joined a long list of stars who have offered their support to the band, including Sting, Madonna, Alicia Silverstone and Martha Wainwright.

Pussy Riot performed the protest song “Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin” in Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow on 21 February, with several group members covering their faces in balaclavas. The song called on Virgin Mary to become a feminist and banish Vladimir Putin. It also criticized the dedication and support shown to Putin by some representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was one of a number of performances intended as a protest against Mr. Putin in the run-up to Russia’s March presidential elections.

The Russian authorities subsequently arrested Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova on 4 March, and Ekaterina Samutsevich on 15 March, claiming they were the masked singers. One of the women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, has admitted to being a member of the larger Pussy Riot group and taking part in the protest, while the other two deny any involvement in the cathedral protest.

Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who are accused of “hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred,” face possible prison sentences of up to seven years.

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