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 By Reuters

World Cup pitch invaders sentenced to 15 days in jail

MOSCOW -- A Moscow court on Monday handed down 15-day jail sentences on four members of the protest group who interrupted Sunday's World Cup final between France and Croatia when they ran onto the pitch wearing fake police uniforms.

The pitch invasion by members of the punk band Pussy Riot early in the second half of the final was a brazen act in Moscow's Luzhniki stadium in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking officials from around the world.

The judge also banned the four from attending sports events for three years.

The four were Veronika Nikulshina, Olga Pakhtusova, Olga Kurachyova and Pyotr Verzilov, the only male.

Kurachyova said their stunt, which held up the game only briefly, was meant to promote freedom of speech and condemn policies of FIFA, football's global governing body.

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"It is a pity that we disrupted the sportsmen," Kurachyova told reporters on Monday.

"FIFA is involved in unfair games, unfortunately. FIFA is a friend of heads of states who carry out repression, who violate human rights."

Verzilov said the performance was also meant to show how "the state, in the form of the police, intrudes into people's lives."

Three of the group's original members were jailed in 2012 for staging a protest against Putin in a church and the group has since become a symbol of anti-Kremlin direct action.

Croatian defender Dejan Lovren, who pushed the male intruder aside on the pitch, told reporters the incident had interrupted the game at an important moment for his team.

The match, which France won 4-2, was watched from the stands by Putin and the French and Croatian presidents.

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