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Madonna, in Moscow, wades into Pussy Riot trial controversy

The Russian Orthodox church, responding angrily to Madonna's sympathy for the embattled Pussy Riot punk rock group, charged that 'this little singer is openly mocking our laws.'

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Madonna is better known for her many clashes with the Roman Catholic Church during the course of her controversial career. But she infuriated Russia's Orthodox Church last March by openly declaring on her Facebook page that she intends to speak out against church-backed legislation banning "homosexual propaganda," when she performs in St. Petersburg later this month.

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"I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed," Madonna wrote at the time. "I don’t run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."

The Pussy Riot trial has already divided Russian society between the conservative majority, who support criminal judgement against the women, and more educated and liberal urbanites who fear the trial may be aimed at setting legal precedents that can later be used more widely to stifle free speech and enforce ideological conformity.

Madonna joins dozens of Western celebrities who've called upon Russian authorities to show leniency toward the women, including Sting, Pete Townshend, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Franz Ferdinand, Faith No More, film director Terry Gilliam, songwriter Peter Gabriel, and actor Danny DeVito.

It is not known what the Kremlin thinks about the unprecedented outpouring of Western solidarity with Pussy Riot, but the state news agency RIA-Novosti recently ran a column arguing that outside pressure is only likely to make Russian authorities more stubborn in their determination to punish the women.

IN PICTURES: Putin on a show

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