* Mother and daughter found stabbed to death in apartment
* Church official says band's supporters bear blame
* Pussy Riot lawyer says no connection with protesters
* Local investigator says he doubts supporters involved
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, Aug 30 Two women were found stabbed to
death in a Russian apartment with the words "Free Pussy Riot"
written on the wall in what was probably blood, investigators
said on Thursday, stirring more passion over the women jailed
for a protest in a church.
A Russian Orthodox Church official said supporters of Pussy
Riot now had "blood on their conscience", the Interfax news
A lawyer for the women, who were sentenced to two years in
prison this month for staging a "punk prayer" against Vladimir
Putin in Moscow's main cathedral, said nobody in the band or or
connected with it was involved in the crime.
Nikolai Polozov, said the words scrawled on the wall may
have been a "provocation" aimed to discredit Pussy Riot.
The bodies of a 76-year-old pensioner and her 38-year-old
daughter were found on Wednesday in their apartment in the city
of Kazan, the federal Investigative Committee said in a
statement. They died from knife wounds.
"BLOOD ON CONSCIENCE"
"At the crime scene, on the wall of the apartment was
discovered an inscription presumably written in blood: 'Free
Pussy Riot'," said the committee, which is Russia's top
investigative body and answers to Putin.
Footage on state-run Rossiya television showed the words
written in big red capital letters on the kitchen wall. There
was no apparent connection between the victims and Pussy Riot.
Five members of the group burst into Moscow's Christ the
Saviour cathedral in February and performed a "punk prayer"
asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin, who was then
campaigning for election as president after four years as prime
The trial and sentencing of the activists has drawn sharp
criticism from foreign governments, musicians and rights groups,
and was seen by Putin's foes in Russia as politically motivated
punishment for dissent.
The head of the church department for relations with the
armed forces and law enforcement agencies, Dimitry Smirnov,
suggested the crime might not have occurred if Pussy Riot had
not received vocal support from Russian and Western critics of
"This blood is on the conscience of so-called community that
has supported the participants in the act in Christ the Saviour
cathedral, because as a result people with unstable psyches have
received carte-blanche," Interfax quoted Smirnov as saying.
The Russian Orthodox Church has cast the performance as a
blasphemous attack on the country's main faith, and nationalist
pro-church activists have called for vigilantes to protect
churches from desecration.
Polozov, a lawyer for the jailed performers, said the crime
was not connected with Pussy Riot or its supporters.
"It's horrible. In my view it is either a monstrous
provocation or the act of a sick maniac. In any case it's not
connected with Pussy Riot because Pussy Riot only supports
peaceful and non-violent protests," he said.
"There have been many protests in support of Pussy Riot and
they've never been violent," said Polozov, who appealed the
Pussy Riot convictions on Monday.
A spokesman for the regional Investigative Committee branch
in Kazan, 800 km (500 miles) east of Moscow, said he did not
believe a supporter of Pussy Riot was responsible.
"It was a regular robbery, a regular robbery and some
degenerate wrote that. It's doubtful that some (Pussy Riot)
supporter wrote that," Andrei Sheptitsky said by telephone.
Bloggers sympathetic to Pussy Riot said it would be
ridiculous to blame the crime on their supporters.
"Supporters of Pussy Riot are responsible for letting loose
war in Syria," Slavik Tsener wrote with apparent sarcasm on his
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina
Samutsevich were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious
hatred on Aug. 17.
They said the performance, which came amidst a series of
opposition street protests that were the largest of Putin's
12-year rule, was meant as criticism of Putin's tightly
controlled political system and the close ties between church
and state in Russia, which the constitution says is a secular
A survey released on Thursday by state-controlled
All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) showed 33
percent of those asked found the two-year sentences too harsh,
while 31 percent said they were appropriate.
Fifteen percent said they weres too lenient and 10 percent
said the women should not have been tried at all, according to
VTsIOM, which interviewed 1,600 people in 46 provinces.