Vladimir Putin reacted angrily to the German chancellor Angela Merkel's questioning of the two-year jail sentence for the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot on Friday, telling her that a member the group had once committed an anti-Semitic act.

"I don't know whether the two women should have been sent to a prison," Merkel said during public talks with the Russian president before the two retreated for closed-door talks. "I don't know whether the same would have happened to them in Germany.

"It would have generated a debate about whether that should go on in a church, no question. But should you really have to spend two years in a labour camp for it?"