Russian police detain several Pussy Riot supporters

MOSCOW Fri Mar 8, 2013 12:37pm GMT

1 of 2. A participant holds a placard during a protest calling for the release of jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot, in central Moscow March 8, 2013. Placard reads 'Free Pussy Riot'.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained several activists protesting on Friday against the incarceration of the punk rockers Pussy Riot in a demonstration timed to take place on International Women's Day.

The street-art collective Voina (War) said on its blog that around 10 people were taken away by the riot police at a small demonstration in support of Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, the jailed band members.

Moscow police told Reuters that people had been detained, but declined to say how many. A Reuters Television cameraman saw four people led away to police cars.

The protest was designed as a one-person demonstration for which no permit is required. Activists took turns in front of the Federal Penitentiary Service building holding posters demanding freedom for Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova.

All the band members, including the since freed Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, belonged to Voina.

Russian media reported that the arrests were made when other people started holding up posters.

Voina said that after the detentions the police allowed the one-person demonstration to continue.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are serving two-year sentences after being convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred when performing an anti-Kremlin "prayer" early last year at Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedral.

Samutsevich was released in October after her lawyer argued that she had not taken part in the performance because she was seized by guards before she could start playing her guitar.

Alyokhina has been refused early release and Tolokonnikova has just requested one, Russian media reported. When asked on Thursday whether the two should be paroled, President Vladimir Putin declined to comment.

"It's not up to me, but it is a thing of procedures and applicable legislation," Putin said, according to Russian media.

He said he does not remember commenting about the Pussy Riot case before.

"I don't remember, perhaps I commented, but today I don't want to," he said.

In October, Putin called the Pussy Riot sentencing fair. "They wanted this, they got it," he told the NTV television channel in an interview then.

On Friday, another one-person demonstration was organised by mothers, wives, sisters, and female friends of opposition members jailed after the protests on the eve of Putin's inauguration in May. No detentions were reported.

(Reporting by Gennady Novik; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Michael Roddy)