News

Putin Frees Pussy Riot Members Despite “Disgraceful Behaviour”

Members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, 25, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, have been freed from prison almost two years after their arrest. Speaking to reporters at a news conference yesterday, Russian President Vladamir Putin confirmed their release after the passing of an amnesty law earlier in the week.

The amnesty bill, which was passed by the Russian Duma with a vote of 446-0 and supported by Putin, outlines Russia’s biggest amnesty in 20 years and mainly considers first-time offenders, minors and women with small children. The passing of the bill coincides with the 20th anniversary of Russia’s constitution and many believe is an attempt by the Kremlin to improve Russia’s human rights record before they host the Winter Olympics this February.

While Putin affirmed the law would extend to the jailed Pussy Riot members, he was quick to condemn their actions during his widely televised news conference. “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.”

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were serving two-year jail terms for performing a punk protest song Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away inside Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on February 21, 2012. They were subsequently arrested and found guilty on charges of “hooliganism”. The musicians had been due for release in March but are now expected to be freed sooner under the amnesty, in part because both are mothers of small children.

Alyokhina is currently held in a prison in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, while Tolokonnikova was moved to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk after publishing an open letter condemning the prison conditions and staging a hunger strike. Fellow band member Yekaterina Samutsevich was also arrested for the performance, but successfully appealed her sentence last year.

USA Today reports the amnesty will go into effect as soon as the bill is published in the government newspaper, but it allows authorities a six-month period to carry it out, meaning some of the prisoners could theoretically have to wait weeks before getting released.

Latest on Music Feeds

Load more