Madonna appealed for the release of three members of the punk group Pussy Riot at her Russian concert last night (07.08.12).

The singer was performing in Moscow as part of her 'MDNA Tour' when she told the crowd she was praying for the freedom of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, who were arrested for performing a song attacking Russian leader Vladimir Putin on February 21.

They claimed their performance, in front of the altar of Moscow's main Cathedral, was a response to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, publicly backing Putin in elections.

Madonna said: ''I know there are many sides to every story, and 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 know that everyone in this auditorium, if you are here as my fan, feels they have the right to be free,''

The trio are currently on trial where they have been held in a glass and steel cage throughout the hearing.

Ms. Tolokonnikova told the judge they meant no ''evil'' with their performance, which saw them dancing and singing a song which parodies a Christian prayer, imploring the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Mr. Putin.

She said: ''We are clowns and we engage in buffoonery. We are kind of crazy but we do not convey any evil.''

Madonna is the latest in a growing list of celebrities who have backed Pussy Riot, including Pete Townshend of The Who, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.