Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (l-r), members of Russian feminist punk band "Pussy Riot" in district court on trial for hooliganism charges for performing a "punk prayer" against Russian President Putin, Moscow, Russia
KRASNOYARSK, Russia (AP) - Two jailed members of the Russian punk
bank Pussy Riot were released Monday following an amnesty law that both
of them described as Kremlin's public relations stunt ahead of the
Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were
granted amnesty last week, which was largely viewed as the Kremlin's
attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of the
Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
The third member,
Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on suspended sentence months after
all three were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred
and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's
main cathedral in March 2012.
The band members insisted their
protest was meant to raise their concern about increasingly close ties
between the state and the church.
Alekhina was released from the
prison colony outside the Volga river city of Nizhny Novgorod on Monday
morning, said Irina Khrunova, her lawyer.
Tolokonnikova walked out of the prison in the Siberian town of
Krasnoyarsk, and was met by dozens of journalists who had been waiting
outside in the freezing cold. Tolokonnikova told reporters that she and
Alekhina will form a group to engage in the human rights movement. She
lambasted the amnesty as the Kremlin's window-dressing ahead of the
Russian parliament passed the amnesty bill last week,
allowing the release of thousands of inmates. Alekhina and
Tolokonnikova qualify for amnesty because they have small children.
release comes days after President Vladimir Putin pardoned Mikhail
Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon and once Russia's richest man, who
spent a decade in prison after challenging Putin's power. Khodorkovsky
flew to Germany after release and said he will stay out of politics. He
pledged, however, to fight for the release of political prisoners in
Alekhina told Dozhd TV channel that she was "too shocked"
when she was released from the prison colony to grasp what was going on.
She also said she would have stayed behind bars to serve her term, which was to end in March if she was free to turn it down.
had a chance to turn it down, I would have done it, no doubt about
that," she told Dozhd. "This is not an amnesty. This is a hoax and a PR
She said the amnesty bill covers less than 10 percent of
the prison population and only a fraction of women with children behind
bars. Women convicted of grave crimes, even if they have children, are
not eligible for amnesty.
Alkhina complained that prison officials
did not give her a chance to say goodbye to cell mates, but put her in a
car and drove her to the train station in downtown Nizhny Novgorod.
Once at the train station, Alekhina drove away to meet with local human rights activists, Khrunova told The Associated Press.
a cell phone picture posted online, Alekhina was seen wearing a dark
green prison jacket with a sticker on her chest with her name on it.
Supreme Court earlier this month ordered a review of the Pussy Riot
case, saying that a lower court did not fully prove their guilt and did
not take their family circumstances into consideration when reaching the
Check out some of our most read stories from 2013:
#shortyellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights
Terrorism Warning: Memo says terrorists practicing dry-runs on Florida flights
Kittens shot: Officer shoots kittens in front of children
Courtroom apology: Woman apologizes for flipping off judge
Weird ice: Strange, giant circles appear on frozen pond
Controversial Club: College student organizes "White Student Union"
CFO Trouble: School administrative chief in trouble over her porn sex blog
Warning Shot Wife: Mother gets 20 years for firing warning shots at abusive husband
Science Arrest: Teen girl arrested over science project explosion
Wait, WHAT?? Dog shoots man in the leg with a handgun
Popular photo galleries:
Faces of Meth: Devastating before and after photos of meth abusers
Travon Martin Shooting: Trayvon Martin crime scene photos and George Zimmerman injury photos
Hooters Winners: Winners of the 2013 Hooters swimsuit pageant
Rejected: Funny Florida license plates rejected by the DMV ***warning graphic***
Deadly sinkhole: Home collapses, man dies in giant sinkhole
Florida Sex Offenders: Look up sex offenders in any Florida neighborhood here
Restaurant Inspections: Look up inspection reports for any Florida restaurant here