A judge sentenced three members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot to two years' jail yesterday for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin in a church, an outcome supporters described as the Kremlin leader's "personal revenge". The band's supporters burst into chants of "Shame" outside the Moscow court and said the case showed Putin's refusal to tolerate dissent. The US embassy in Moscow said the sentence appeared disproportionate. The women have support abroad, where their case has been taken up by a long list of celebrities, but polls show few Russians sympathise with them. The court found the women guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, describing them as blasphemers who had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers by storming the altar of Moscow's main cathedral in February to belt out a song deriding Putin. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, say they were protesting against Putin's close ties with the church when they burst onto the altar in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral wearing bright ski masks, tights and short skirts. State prosecutors had requested a three-year jail term. "Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and Alyokhina committed an act of hooliganism, a gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society," the court said. "The girls' actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church's rules." Putin's opponents portray the trial as part of a wider crackdown to crush their protest movement. "They are in jail because it is Putin's personal revenge," Alexei Navalny, a protest leader, said. "This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin." Activists across Europe demonstrated their support yesterday for the three women, with rallies held in London, Kiev, Sofia, Barcelona, Brussels and Paris. The EU's foreign affairs chief said a "serious question mark" hung over Russian justice. "This sentence is disproportionate," Catherine Ashton said, adding: "I expect that this sentence will be reviewed and reversed in line with Russia's international commitments." Witnesses saw at least 24 people detained by police in scuffles or for unfurling banners or donning balaclavas in support of Pussy Riot outside the courtroom.