New York: Feted by Madonna and cheered by thousands, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot defied President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the Sochi Olympics at a star-studded New York concert.
The performance highlighted soaring tensions between Russia and the United States, which drastically deteriorated when Moscow granted asylum to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden last year.
US pop icon Madonna hailed the courage and fearlessness of punk heroines Maria Alyokhina, 25, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, who were released from Russian penal colonies last December.
Madonna said she was threatened with death after supporting them at a concert in Moscow during their trial in August 2012 and accused by Russian authorities of propagating homosexual behaviour.
"It`s time for the rest of the world to be as brave as Pussy Riot and to stand up against people like President Putin and other leaders and other organisations that do not respect human rights and perpetuate discrimination and injustice," Madonna said.
"It is my privilege and my honour, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce Masha and Nadya from Pussy Riot," she shouted over cat calls as the ecstatic Barclays Center in Brooklyn went wild.
"Can we get a `hell yeah,`" she bellowed, dressed in a black woolly hat and long black coat, before embracing the two women on stage.