Pussy Riot members flee Russia

Two women from the punk band Pussy Riot - who were being sought by Russian police - have fled the country, the band said.

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European leaders brand Pussy Riot sentences 'unfair' and 'excessively harsh'

European leaders and the European Union have reacted strongly to the sentencing of Pussy Riot to two years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the sentence was "excessively harsh" and "not compatible with the European values of the rule of law and democracy to which Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe, has committed itself."

"A dynamic civil society and politically active citizens are a necessary precondition for Russia's modernisation, not a threat," she said.

Carl Bildt, the Foreign Minister of Sweden tweeted:

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat, said the two-year sentences handed down by a Moscow court on Friday were "disproportionate" and should be reversed.

In a statement she said:

"Together with the reports of the band members' mistreatment during pre-trial detention and the reported irregularities of the trial, it (the verdict) puts a serious question mark over Russia's respect for international obligations of fair, transparent and independent legal process.

"This case adds to the recent upsurge in politically motivated intimidation and prosecution of opposition activists in the Russian Federation, a trend that is of growing concern to the European Union."

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