MOSCOW, May 23 (RIA Novosti) – Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney has written letters to Russian authorities in support of two members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot, who were jailed last August on offical charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, his website says.
The famous musician has asked the Russian officials to consider release on parole for Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who are serving two-year sentences for performing a "punk-prayer" against President Vladimir Putin in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in central Moscow in February 2012.
“In the great tradition of fair-mindedness which the Russian people (many of whom are my friends) are famous for, I believe that you granting this request would send a very positive message to all the people who have followed this case,” McCartney wrote in a letter regarding Alyokhina.
"I have had a long relationship with the Russian people, and, with this in mind, I am making the following request in a spirit of friendship for my many Russian acquaintances who, like me, believe in treating people - all people, with compassion and kindness,” he wrote in a letter regarding Tolokonnikova.
Alyokhina, 24, declared a hunger strike on Wednesday after a regional court denied her access to her parole appeal hearing, while Tolokonnikova, 23, was denied parole by a court in Russia's republic of Mordovia in April.
In October 2012, the Moscow City Court changed a two-year prison sentence for the third jailed Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, to a suspended term and released her immediately, based on her new attorneys' arguments that she was seized by security guards prior to reaching the altar and was therefore prevented from carrying out the offense.
The Pussy Riot case has 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.