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02:28 GMT +3 hours23 December 2014
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Putin: No Support for Anti-Semites

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People who are against Jews cannot expect any support in Russia or Germany, President Vladimir Putin said while commenting on the Pussy Riot case on Friday.

MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - People who are against Jews cannot expect any support in Russia or Germany, President Vladimir Putin said while commenting on the Pussy Riot case on Friday.

Speaking at a Russian-German forum, Putin said German Chancellor Angela Merkel “mentioned the young women who are in prison for their performance in a church.”

“But does she know that before that one of them strung up the effigy of a Jew and said Moscow should be rid of such people?” Putin said.

“We cannot support people who hold anti-Semitic positions,” Putin said.

Speaking to journalists after talks with Merkel in the Kremlin, the Russian president said those who pass judgment ought to have comprehensive knowledge of the situation.

“I do not think modern Germany should support anti-Semitism,” Putin said. “When we discuss some things, we should know the problem from all sides.”

“As regards insulting the feelings of believers and the church, as far as I know, Germany has criminal responsibility for that - imprisonment for up to three years,” Putin added.

According to the gazeta.ru publication, when Putin spoke about anti-Semitism, he apparently meant a performance of the Voina art group in 2008, which, according to organizers, was a protest against the Moscow authorities’ policies regarding foreigners and homosexuals. Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova took part in it.

Five women from Pussy Riot performed in late February a “punk prayer” in downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, which is Russia’s biggest Orthodox church. An edited clip of the band’s protest posted online showed the group high-kicking near the entrance to the altar of the cathedral accompanied by the song “Holy S**t” urging the Virgin Mary to “drive [Vladimir] Putin out.” The song mocked Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and believers in insulting terms.

Soon after, police arrested three of the suspected performers. The three women said their performance was a political protest against Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin ahead of the March 4 presidential elections that returned him to the Kremlin, but the court found the performers guilty of hooliganism aimed at inciting religious hatred and jailed them for two years each on August 17. The prison term for one of them was later replaced with a suspended sentence.

The trial and sentences attracted unprecedented media attention and international criticism, which the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed as "groundless," saying the band's act had nothing to do with artistic performance but was "insulting to millions of Orthodox [Christian] believers." The band said their performance was not aimed at insulting believers' feelings.