Jailed Pussy Riot Members Freed

Russia has freed two jailed members of the political protest punk band Pussy Riot under an amnesty law.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova left a prison in the Siberian city Krasnoyarsk Monday, hours after band mate Maria Alyokhina was released from a different prison. Both women called their release a public relations stunt by the Russian government ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Tolokonnikova told reporters as she left prison that Russia is trying to prevent a possible boycott of the games. She urged people to remember less known prisoners who remain in jail.

Alyokhina said she would have preferred to remain in prison. She said her release was not "a humanitarian act."

The two women had been due to be released in March 2014. They were freed early after the Russian parliament passed an amnesty bill last week allowing for the release of thousands of inmates. The Pussy Riot band members qualified for the amnesty in part because they have young children.

The third member of the band, Yekarterina Samutsevich, was released and had her sentence suspended in 2012.

A combination photo shows freed Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left) in Krasnoyarsk and Maria Alyokhina in Nizhny Novgorod speaking to the media after they were released from prison on Dec. 23, 2013. /Reuters A combination photo shows freed Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left) in Krasnoyarsk and Maria Alyokhina in Nizhny Novgorod speaking to the media after they were released from prison on Dec. 23, 2013. /Reuters

The women were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a punk prayer against President Vladimir Putin on the altar of Russia's most prominent Orthodox church in early 2012.

Pussy Riot was protesting against the Orthodox church's support for Putin during his run for an third term as president. The jailing of the band members had sparked protests around the world with critics saying it was part of the Kremlin's growing clampdown on dissent.
 
The release of the two Pussy Riot members comes days after Putin pardoned former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who had spend a decade in prison.

VOA News / Dec. 24, 2013 08:11 KST