Two members of Russia's anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot have fled the country to avoid prosecution for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin at a church altar, the group said yesterday.

A Moscow court sentenced three members of the all-female opposition band to two years in prison on 17 August for staging a "punk prayer" at the city's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February and calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Mr Putin. The sentence drew sharp international criticism of the authorities, while opposition groups at home have portrayed it as part of a Kremlin clampdown on dissent.

Police said earlier this week they were searching for other members of the band. A Twitter account called Pussy Riot Group read: "In regard to the pursuit, two of our members have successfully fled the country! They are recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new actions!"

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