RUSSIA: The jailing of Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot sparked a formal complaint from Australia over the “disproportionate” two-year sentence handed to trio.
Nanjing Night Net

Prime Minister Julia Gillard landed in Vladivostok earlier tonight to join representatives of 21 nations for a summit of Asia Pacific leaders.

She revealed Australia’s embassy in Moscow had raised the plight of the feminist punk rockers last month, shortly after their sentence was handed down.

The band was jailed for “holiganism” after a provocative performance in a Moscow cathedral in February when they sang lyrics critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ms Gillard said she expected to speak to Mr Putin during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting but declined to say whether she would raise the jailed band.

Russia has been roundly criticised in the West over the crackdown on freedom of expression during Mr Putin’s rule – first as president until he slipped into the job of prime minister, only to return to the presidency after elections in March.

Ms Gillard said the weekend talks marked her first visit to Russia and she expected leaders to make progress reducing trade tariffs on environmental goods.

Higher education and improving the ability of students and researchers to move across the region is also expected to be a focus.

Despite a proliferation of summits across the region, Ms Gillard defended the role of APEC for getting leaders together and creating a catalyst for change.

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