Putin Faces Down Topless Protest in Germany

Russia urged Germany to punish a group of women who staged a bare-breasted protest against President Vladimir Putin on Monday during a visit to a trade fair in Hanover with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Three members of the women's rights group Femen, which has staged protests against Russia's detention of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot around Europe, disrupted a visit by Putin and Merkel to an industry fair focusing on Russian business.

They stripped off to the waist and shouted slogans calling the Russian leader a "dictator" before being covered up and bundled away by security men.

"This is ordinary hooliganism and unfortunately it happens all over the world, in any city. One needs to punish (them)," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The Russian leader's arrival at the trade fair on Sunday also drew protesters, some of whom were dressed in striped prison uniforms. "Stop political terror," read one banner.

Merkel told Putin in a speech at the fair on Sunday that Russia needed "an active civil society" including freedom for non-governmental organisations, after a wave of controversial state inspections of foreign-funded NGOs in Russia.

The chancellor had promised to raise what she called "controversial subjects" with Putin, after coming under pressure to voice Berlin's unease over the crackdown on NGOs, Moscow's support of the Syrian government and its criticism of the German-orchestrated financial bailout of Cyprus.