Madonna used the Moscow-leg of her ‘MDNA’ tour last night to express support for the jailed members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot, whose trial has been continuing this week. Scroll down to watch fan-filmed footage of the speech.
Playing to an audience of 20,000 at the Olympiskii stadium, the singer paused halfway through her set to give a speech on freedom, self-expression and called for Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich be released.
Lit by banks of brilliant white lights and flanked by two dancers, Madonna told the crowd, “I just want to say a few words about Pussy Riot. I know there are many sides to every story; I mean no disrespect to the church or the government. But I think that these three girls- Masha, Katya, Nadya – I think that they have done something courageous. I think they have paid the price for this act and I pray for their freedom.”
The singer continued: “I know that everyone here in this auditorium – if you’re here as my fan – feels they deserve the right to be free. So to these three girls who’ve been in jail now for five months, who are going through a trial right now I pray for your freedom, I know we all pray for your freedom and lets hope that one day we really will live in a world filled with peace and freedom and tolerance.”
Madonna ended the speech saying “Enough about freedom, let’s sing about love”, before launching into a performance of ‘Masterpiece’. She later stripped down to her bra before turning to the crowd to show the words ‘Pussy Riot’ stamped in black across her back before donning a dark green balaclava – similar to those worn by Pussy riot – for ‘Like A Virgin’.
Before the gig, a small number of Orthodox Christians protested against the concert, carrying icons and wooden crosses. Madonna has angered Orthodox groups with use of Christian imagery in her shows, as well as her support for gay rights. The spokesman for the Russian Orthodox church, Vsevolod Chaplin has previously said Madonna needs spiritual help.
Hours before the Moscow concert began, the US embassy issued a statement warning its citizens of “a threat of physical violence” targeted at performers and audience members at Madonna’s Russian shows. The warning appeared after Madonna gave an interview on Monday to the prominent opposition activist, Oleg Kashin, in which she said the Orthodox church was acting “incorrectly” towards the accused women.
Three members of Pussy Riot have been in detention since their arrest in March following an impromptu gig at Moscow’s Christ The Saviour Cathedral. The band sang a song called ‘Holy Shit’ as a protest against the Orthodox Christian church’s support for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The three women are currently on trial in Moscow and face up to seven years in jail on hooliganism charges.
Madonna is the latest musician to throw her weight behind the case, joining Johnny Marr, Alex Kapranos, Kate Nash and many other artists who signed a letter calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the three detained members of the band. Putin himself, meanwhile, claimed earlier this week (August 3) that the three detainees should not be judged too severely for their actions.
Last night the free members of Pussy Riot tweeted: “DEAR MADONNA! We love you and you just might be changing Russia’s history right now. Thank you and a thousand prayers in return!”
A verdict for the case is expected today (August 8). Meanwhile, Madonna is due to continue her Russian tour in Saint Petersburg on August 9, where she is widely expected to criticise anti-gay laws recently enacted in the city.
Last night Madonna played:
‘Girl Gone Wild’
‘Papa Don’t Preach’
‘I Don’t Give A’
‘Best Friend / Heartbeat (Interlude)’
‘Express Yourself / Born This Way’
‘Turn Up The Radio’
‘Give Me All Your Luvin’’
‘Open Your Heart’
‘Justify My Love (Interlude)’
‘Human Nature / Erotica’
‘Like A Virgin’
‘Nobody Knows Me (Interlude)’
‘I’m A Sinner’
‘Like A Prayer’