Arrests at Moscow women's day Pussy Riot picket

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Moscow police made several arrests on Friday as dozens of activists staged a picket outside the headquarters of the Russian prison service on women's day to call for the release of punk rock group s Pussy Riot.

Around 50 people braved freezing temperatures to demonstrate outside the building, holding placards calling for the release of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

They all stood apart in order not to require the official permission needed in Russia for any protest numbering more than one person, an AFP correspondent reported.

But around 10 people were arrested at the start of the protest by police who claimed they were forming a group demonstration.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are currently serving two-year prison camp sentences for hooliganism after their performance denouncing President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral last year.

Among those protesting was Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich who was released on appeal due to her peripheral role in the performance. She held a giant placard reading "Freedom for Pussy Riot".

"It is a day of solidarity and it is not scary at all," she told AFP. "At the moment they (the police) do not need any provocations, that is not at all in their interest here."

Many of the activists adorned their placards with pictures of flowers to honour International Women's Day, a Soviet-era festival that is still a national holiday in Russia and celebrated with enthusiasm.

The protest came after Tolokonnikova,23, asked a regional court that she be released on parole on several grounds, including the fact that she has a five-year-old daughter.

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