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Russians sue Madonna over her support of gay rights; she tells U.S. fans to appreciate freedom

BY MESFIN FEKADU, AP MUSIC WRITER

PHILADELPHIA -- As she kicked off the U.S. leg of her "MDNA Tour" in Philadelphia, Madonna said she was happy to party in the USA after touring Europe for three months.

The pop icon told the crowd Tuesday night they should "never forget how lucky you are to live where you live and to have the freedom that you have." She made the comments after talking about the arrest of three members of the punk-rock female band Pussy Riot. The women were sentenced to two years in prison after performing a "punk prayer" at Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral in which they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from its leader, Vladimir Putin.

"In my travels around the world the one thing I truly witnessed is we in America have freedom of speech, freedom of expression," the singer said.

Russian activists recently sued Madonna for millions of dollars, claiming they were offended by her support for gay rights during her show in St. Petersburg. A law passed in February makes it illegal to promote homosexuality to minors, and the author of that law has pointed to the presence of children as young as 12 at Madonna's concert on Aug. 9. (Minors also attended Madonna's U.S. show.)

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