An activist from women's rights group Femen uses a chainsaw to cut down an Orthodox cross, erected in memory of victims of political repressions under the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin regime, near the Oktyabrsky Palace in central Kiev.

Kiev - A topless women's rights activist chopped down a Christian cross in the centre of the Ukrainian capital Kiev with a power saw on Friday to protest against the prosecution of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot.

The protest came as a Russian court was due to deliver a verdict on three band members for performing a political “punk prayer” at the altar of Moscow's main cathedral - a case that has been criticised by free-speech advocates around the world.

To show support for Pussy Riot, a member of Ukrainian group Femen, which regularly stages bare-breasted shock performances, destroyed a large wooden cross bearing the figure of the crucified Christ, erected in 2005.

“No business, not even one as successful as the church, has the right to attack women's rights,” activist Inna Shevchenko said after cutting down the cross, “Free Riot” written across her chest. There were no police at the scene.

Femen's move is certain to trigger outrage among religious groups in the country where Orthodox Christianity is the main religion.

It represented a departure for Femen activists who have mainly confined their activities to baring their breasts at public events to highlight their campaign against prostitution and sex tourism.

When Ukraine hosted the European soccer championship in June - a popular event that many Ukrainians saw as recognition of the country's place in the European mainstream - Femen used the event to stage high-visibility protests.

Femen activists attempted to steal the championship's trophy and held several protests in the official Kiev “fan zone” where thousands of foreign tourists were massed. - Reuters