The two imprisoned members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were freed today (Monday, December 23, 2013) under a new amnesty law. Both women had served nearly all of their two-year sentence.
Maria Alyokhina was set free in the western city of Nizhny Novgorod this morning, while Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was freed later in the day in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.
Upon her release, Tolokonnikova yelled, “Russia without Putin!,” Rolling Stone reports. She then told reporters:
I’m in the mood to work after getting out from prison. My exit from prison is only just the beginning, as far as the line between freedom and bondage remains very narrow in Russia, in an authoritarian state.
In a telephone interview Alyokhina told the New York Times “she did not want amnesty, and that officials had forced her to leave the prison. She said that the amnesty program was designed to make Mr. Putin look benevolent, and that she would have preferred to serve the remainder of her sentence.”
I think this is an attempt to improve the image of the current government, a little, before the Sochi Olympics — particularly for the Western Europeans. But I don’t consider this humane or merciful. This is a lie. We didn’t ask for any pardon. I would have sat here until the end of my sentence because I don’t need mercy from Putin.
Reuters reported this evening that Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina is now free.
Maria Alyokhina, a member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, walked free from jail on Monday under an amnesty allowing her early release from a two-year sentence for a protest in a church against President Vladimir Putin.
“They’ve just released her,” Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of fellow band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is also due to be released under the amnesty, told Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that the imprisoned Pussy Riot members will be freed under an amnesty but described their protest against him in a church as “disgraceful behaviour,” NDTV reported.
The amnesty will also free 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil — before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in February 2014.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are serving two-year sentences for a protest at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which included the filming the music video “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!”
Putin said the amnesty was passed to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution, and not with the Greenpeace protesters or Pussy Riot in mind.
At an annual news conference today Putin said:
“It (the amnesty) is neither linked to Greenpeace, nor this group (Pussy Riot).”
But Putin also said, “I was not sorry that they (the Pussy Riot members) ended up behind bars,” Putin said. “I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behaviour, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women. They went beyond all boundaries.”
Jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will spend the rest of her two-year prison term at a hospital in the Krasnoyarsk region, a news report said Monday.
Tolokonnikova made the request herself after she had been examined at the hospital, which is run by the prison, and the authorities will now decide what job to give her while she is there, Itar-Tass reported.
Tolokonnikova’s lawyer said her client was feeling well and has joined the hospital’s band.
Her sentence is set to run until March 2014, but her lawyer thinks that she could be released earlier under an amnesty planned for this month in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Constitution.
A draft of the amnesty is currently under consideration by the State Duma and is expected to be passed on Wednesday. It could come into effect by the weekend.
It now appears that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot are likely be pardoned on December 12th as part of a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reports.
In total, some 25,000 prisoners will be pardoned including 30 or so Greenpeace activists, Izvestia reports.
Izvestia is basing the news on a draft of an amnesty bill by Russian President Vladimir Putin that has been submitted to the Russian parliament that the newspaper obtained.
Although the bill does not name individuals, according toe the draft version, among those who will be pardoned are women who have young children and who have not committed violent crimes. That would include Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.
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The two incarcerated members of Pussy Riot are not likely to get amnesty, The Guardian reports.
An amnesty bill expected to be passed by the Russian parliament in the next week or so is not expected to apply to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.
The two members of the group are serving a two-year prison sentence for ‘hooliganism’ for the “punk prayer” protest against Putin in Russia’s main cathedral in February 2012.
The Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev said today on Russian television that Russians were “not inclined” to grant amnesty to those who had committed violent crimes and “crimes against society including hooliganism.”
Both members of Pussy Riot are due for release in March of 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that he backed proposals for an amnesty for thousands of prisoners, and his rights advisor says that could free the two imprisoned Pussy Riot women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.
“I agree… that such actions must be pacifying,” Putin said in televised comments.
“This amnesty can only apply to individuals who did not commit grave crimes or crimes involving violence against representatives of the authorities, by this I mean law enforcement officers,” Putin told Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential rights council, an independent advisory body, and Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin.
“I agree with you that such actions should underscore the humanism of our state,” Putin said, “but they certainly must not … give anyone the impression they can commit a crime today and count on forgiveness from the state tomorrow.”
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are due for release in March after serving two-year sentences for Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” protest against Putin in Russia’s main cathedral in February 2012.
The amnesty could free up to 100,000 prisoners, Fedotov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Fedotov told journalists the amnesty could free the Pussy Riot members.
“I think that yes of course,” Fedotov said. “After all that [what the Pussy Riot members did] was not a violent crime.”
The Presidential Council for Human Rights, Russian’s top human rights group, on Friday (Oct. 11, 2013) approved a draft ‘broad amnesty’ at the request of President Vladimir Putin, and various members of the council have suggested that the bill could cover the most high profile criminal cases in the country including the two imprisoned members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, according to RT, an international multilingual Russian-based television network.
The head of the council, Mikhail Fedotov, told reporters the amnesty will include convicted women who have underage children, RT reports. According to HR activists the broad amnesty could mean freedom for about a quarter of all Russian prisoners.
President Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that all reports on the amnesty would be considered by the presidential administration as soon as they are submitted, RT reports. The Presidential Council for Human Rights is expected to submit their proposal to President Putin’s office on Monday (Oct. 14, 2013).
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is currently serving a two year sentence at Penal Colony No. 14 in the region of Mordovia. Maria Alyokhina is serving her sentence in the Berezniki prison colony in the Perm region. Perm and Mordovia are in the freezing central region of Siberia. Both women are due to be released in March of 2014, unless the amnesty frees them sooner.