Moscow: Three members of an all-girl punk band voiced regret on Monday for causing offence when they played an anti-Vladimir Putin song in Russia's top Orthodox cathedral, but said at their trial they were innocent of their charges.

The three young women -- who face up to seven years in jail if found guilty of hooliganism charges -- said they had wanted to change Russia with their action but could have made an "ethical" mistake by offending worshippers.

Initial hearings in the trial earlier this month saw the court order the three members of punk rock group Pussy Riot to stay in detention until January 2013, a move their supporters condemned as travesty of justice.

With the initial hearings now over, Monday's audience saw first legal arguments in the packed Khamovnichesky court in Moscow at a process that is growing into a landmark event in the struggle between President Putin and the emboldened opposition.

In February, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina climbed into an area reserved for priests in the Church of Christ the Saviour and performed a "punk prayer" against Putin.

The trio were all arrested in March and charged with hooliganism. Several others also took part but were never arrested.

They have been held in detention ever since and their case has been taken up by celebrities including pop star Sting and US rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers and become a new rallying cause for the opposition against Putin.

After the three girls, all dressed casually, confidently declared their names, places of residence and birthdates to the judge, their lawyer Violetta Volkova read out handwritten statements in their names.

"It (the action) was a desperate attempt to change the political system. We had no intention of insulting people. We did not expect our Punk appearance would cause offence," said the statement by Tolokonnikova.

"The fact we do not accept guilt in the charges does not mean we are not ready to admit our mistakes. If someone was insulted then I am prepared to accept that we made an ethical mistake," her statement said.

She said the motivation for their action was a protest against the support in elections for President Putin by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill which was against the principles of Russia's secular constitution.


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