The bodies of two slain women were found beneath a scrawled message demanding freedom for jailed members of Pussy Riot, Russian officials said Thursday.

An investigator cautioned that the killer might be trying to mislead police by drawing attention to supporters of the punk provocateurs.

The women, aged 76 and 38, were killed late last week in their apartment in the central city of Kazan with the words "Free Pussy Riot" written on the wall, "presumably" with blood, the Investigative Committee said in a statement. The substance has not yet been confirmed, the committee said.

It did not provide the women's names and did not reveal details about their occupations or whether they had any connection with the band. Russian tabloid Lifenews quoted an unnamed investigator as saying that the bodies were disfigured by multiple stab wounds.

The jailed band members' attorney said on Twitter that "what happened in Kazan is horrible," calling the case "either a horrendous provocation or a psychopathic" case.

"I am sorry that some freaks are using Pussy Riot's band name," Nikolai Polozov was further quoted by Interfax as saying.

In mid-August, a Moscow court sentenced three band members to two years in jail for performing a "punk prayer" against President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow cathedral in February.

The case has polarized Russians. Kremlin-friendly television networks and media covered the "prayer" in mostly negative terms, and the country's dominant Orthodox Church called their stunt sacrilegious. However, hundreds of artists, musicians and other intellectuals have signed petitions urging authorities to free the band members.

Bid to mislead police

Andrey Sheptitsky, an investigator in Kazan, told a Russian news agency the killer "was trying to avoid suspicion" by misleading police.

Several wooden crosses that stood outside Orthodox churches in Russia and neighbouring Ukraine have been toppled by people who claimed to be the band's supporters. The band's manager and husband of one of the jailed rockers said the band disapproved of the vandalism.

The trial, widely seen as Kremlin-orchestrated, caused an international furor. Celebrities including Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel urged Russian authorities to free the band.

A poll released Thursday by the state-run VTsIOM polling agency suggested one third of Russians consider the two-year jail sentence too harsh, while another 31 per cent found it appropriate. The survey questioned 1,600 people nationwide Aug. 25-26 and gave a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.