MOSCOW -

Beatles frontman Paul McCartney has asked a Russian judge to release members of the Pussy Riot punk group from prison.

In letters dated Monday and posted online by the group's supporters, McCartney asks for parole to be granted to Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, currently serving two-year sentences for an impromptu protest in Moscow's main cathedral.

McCartney wrote that he was making the request "in a spirit of friendship for my many Russian acquaintances who, like me, believe in treating people - all people, with compassion and kindness."

Alekhina went on hunger strike Wednesday in protest at not being allowed to attend her own parole hearing in Perm province. The judge in Mordovia province to whom McCartney addressed both letters denied Tolokonnikova parole last month.