Russian Orthodox Church urges 'mercy' for Pussy Riot

The Russian Orthodox Church has urged the state to show mercy to three women from Pussy Riot, raising the possibility that it could back a pardon or a reduction of their terms.

The church reiterated its criticism of the women from the punk collective, saying their protest in Moscow's Christ the Saviour cathedral was "blasphemy" and displayed "crude hostility towards millions of people".

But in a statement added:

Without subjecting the rightfulness of the court's decision to any doubt, we call on the state authorities to show mercy to the people convicted within the framework of the law, in the hope that they will refrain from repeating blasphemous actions.

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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.