MOSCOW // The bodies of two murdered women were found beneath a scrawled message demanding freedom for jailed members of Pussy Riot, Russian officials said yesterday.
An investigator cautioned that the killer was possibly trying to mislead police by drawing attention to supporters of the punk provocateurs.
The Investigative Committee said the women, aged 76 and 38, were killed late last week in their apartment in Kazan with the words "Free Pussy Riot" written on the wall in English, "presumably" with blood. The substance has not yet been confirmed.
It did not provide the women's names and did not reveal details about their occupations or whether they had any connection to the band. Russian tabloid Lifenews quoted an unnamed investigator as saying that the bodies were disfigured by multiple stab wounds.
The jailed band members' attorney said on Twitter that "what happened in Kazan is horrible", calling the case "either a horrendous provocation or a psychopathic" case.
"I am sorry that some freaks are using Pussy Riot's band name," Nikolai Polozov was quoted by Interfax as saying.
An investigator in Kazan said that the murderer was trying to cover up the crime by attributing the murder to the band's supporters.
The criminal "was trying to avoid suspicion" by misleading police, Andrey Sheptitsky said in televised remarks.
In mid-August, a Moscow court sentenced three band members to two years in jail for performing a "punk prayer" against President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow cathedral in February.
The murder in Kazan was immediately picked up by Russian media. Some publications ran headlines claiming unapologetically that Pussy Riot supporters "committed" or "inspired" a double homicide.
The coverage was full of the mostly negative terms used by Kremlin-friendly television networks and media in their coverage of the trial.
The leader of an Orthodox youth group that had accosted and assaulted Pussy Riot supporters, said the band's backers are capable of committing "any" crime.
"The infernal force that drives them hates God, believers and humankind in general," Dmitry Tsorionov told Interfax on Thursday. "These people are capable of committing any crime, and nothing but force and law can stop them."
Several wooden crosses that stood outside Orthodox churches in Russia and neighbouring Ukraine have been toppled by people who claimed to be the band's supporters. The band's manager and husband of one of the jailed rockers said the band disapproved of the vandalism.