NEW YORK Pop icon Madonna said Wednesday she will introduce to the stage two formerly jailed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot when they appear at an Amnesty International concert in New York next week, hailing the pair as "fellow freedom fighters."
Maria Alyokhina, 25, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, will speak at the concert organized by the human rights group on February 5 during their first trip to New York since being granted amnesty in December by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They became international were symbols of human rights campaigners after being jailed in Russia for nearly two years.
"I am honored to introduce my fellow freedom fighters Masha and Nadya from Pussy Riot. I have admired their courage and have long supported their commitment and the sacrifices they have made in the name of free of expression and human rights," Madonna said in a statement after posting the news on her Facebook page.
Amnesty announced that the pair, who were convicted in 2012 of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after storming Moscow's biggest cathedral and beseeching the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin, would attend the concert earlier this month.
A third Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed when a judge suspended her sentence on appeal.
American alternative rock group Imagine Dragons, the Flaming Lips and R&B singer Lauryn Hill will perform at the Bringing Human Rights Home concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The event will resume a global concert series that Nobel Peace Prize-winning Amnesty International began 25 years ago, featuring rock greats such as U2, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Lou Reed.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)