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She also compared them to Charles Manson, whose followers used the blood of murder victims to write on the walls of their houses.

The leader of an Orthodox youth group that has accosted and assaulted Pussy Riot supporters claimed that they 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.”

The country’s dominant Orthodox Church has called the band’s stunt sacrilegious, but hundreds of artists, musicians and other intellectuals have signed petitions urging authorities to free them.

Several wooden crosses that stood outside Orthodox churches in Russia and neighboring Ukraine have been toppled by people who have claimed to be the band’s supporters.

The band’s manager and the husband of one of the jailed rockers, however, said the band disapproved of the vandalism.

A poll released Thursday by the state-run VTsIOM polling agency showed that one-third of Russians considered the two-year jail sentence for the band members too harsh, while another 31 per cent found it appropriate. The survey questioned 1,600 people nationwide on Aug. 25-26 and gave a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

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Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.