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Madonna stands up for Ukraine's jailed former leader

Madonna rallied support for the jailed former prime minister of the Ukraine last week (ends05Aug12) after quizzing the crowd at her concert soundcheck about the circumstances surrounding her incarceration.

The Material Girl was running through songs ahead of her gig in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev last Saturday (04Aug12) when she halted the rehearsals and asked locals about troubled politician Yulia Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to serve seven years behind bars in 2011 for her alleged abuse of office while in power from December, 2007, to March, 2010.

In video footage posted on YouTube.com, Madonna told the small audience, "I don't even know the actual truth, I've just heard some stories from emails... Is it true that the woman who was the former president (sic) is in jail here?"

After hearing supporters for Tymoshenko protest her conviction, Madonna replied, "If you feel so strongly, how come no one's fighting for her? You might get killed? So, this is what we call freedom? Just curious, thank you for telling me."

The singer then urged fans to stand up for Tymoshenko and called on the crowd to fight on the embattled politician's behalf, telling them: "Are you brave? Do you have courage? Are you willing to fight for what is right?"

Madonna did not repeat her comments during her Kiev show that night, but she did make headlines in Russia this week when she performed in Moscow, Russia on Tuesday (07Aug12) and voiced her support for the imprisoned members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who are facing prison time for performing a protest song against President Vladimir Putin in a church in February (12).

She also upset officials in St. Petersburg on Thursday night (09Aug12) as she challenged the city's gay rights legislation during a concert, handing out pink bracelets to 25,000 fans.