Russia probes 'cynical' flag stunt by US band

MOSCOW - Russian investigators said on Monday they were looking at all those connected with a "cynical crime" in which a US rock musician stuffed a Russian flag into his trousers at a concert.

The band Bloodhound Gang scandalised Russia when a video was released of its bassist stuffing a Russian flag into his trousers and then throwing it into the crowd at a concert last week in Odessa, Ukraine.

"Considering the cynicism of the said crime, which expressed clear disrespect for the Russian state... the Investigative Committee has organised a procedural check," the powerful agency, which is an equivalent of the US FBI, said in a statement.

It did not say whether a formal investigation into flag desecration has been launched.

According to Russian criminal law, desecration of the Russian flag could lead to a jail sentence of up to one year.

"The investigation will evaluate everyone connected with this crime, from the actual perpetrators to its organisers," the Investigative Committee said, adding that it had yet to receive reports from police who questioned the band members.

The band members were turned away from the festival where they were due to play in southern Russia on Saturday and flew out of the country after being told to pack their bags by the culture minister and having their visas cut short by the migration services.

Before they abruptly left Russia, the group apologised by saying at a news conference that it was a tradition that everything thrown from the stage to fans "takes a trip through the pants."

As they flew out, the band members were egged by pro-Kremlin youth activists and assaulted by Cossacks, an ultra-conservative group.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers called for them to be banned from Russia for life and said that the Russian organisers of their concert should face consequences.

The US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul late Sunday said on his Twitter account: "I find the action by Bloodhound Gang disgusting. I also condemn the violence against them."

"Inquiries for legal assistance will be sent to the United States and Ukraine soon," the Investigative Committee said.