Pussy Riot Duo Freed In Russian Christmas Amnesty




The two jailed members of Russian art – punk band Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina  have walked free from jail under an amnesty law passed by President Putin only days ago, ahead of the Winter Olympics, set to take place in February 2014. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova left a prison hospital in Siberia, while her friend Maria Alyokhina was freed earlier in Nizhny Novgorod.

The women had been incarcerated in penal colonies for two years and were not eligible for parole until next year.The artists were used to set a political example to others  for protesting against the near dictatorial regime of hardliner President Vladimir Putin.They were convicted of a public order offence motivated by ‘religious hatred’ for their protest/performance of an anti Putin ‘Punk Prayer’ inside Christ The Saviour Cathedral in February 2012. The women were jailed in August 2012. The act was seen as blasphemous by some Russians, but their conviction for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” was criticised by international rights groups, anti-Putin activists and foreign governments.

Yesterday Mr Putin released Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man and his personal foe, in a move that again was widely seen as an attempt to appease the West. At his Berlin news conference, Khodorkovsky  struck a conciliatory tone, vowing to stay out of politics and saying that he did not feel hatred towards the man who finally pardoned him after more than 10 years in jail.

The Pussy Riot members’ have already claimed to ‘not go quietly’. Alyokhina’s first words after her release were critical of the government, a sign that this fight is likely to get more personal.  Alyokhina, told Russian TV today that her views of President Putin had not changed and that the amnesty was “a profanation” and “a PR exercise”.

Tolokonnikova called for reform of Russia’s prison system, and said she and Alyokhina would now form a group to engage in the human rights movement. Their sentences were due to finish in March 2014, but their predicted release was widely reported after Russia’s parliament passed a new law giving amnesty to some 20,000 prisoners, which including mothers. Both of the women have young children.


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