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Pussy Riot members released from prison

Two jailed members of the Russian punk bank Pussy Riot were released Monday following an amnesty law that both described as a Kremlin public relations stunt ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were granted amnesty last week in a move 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 a 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 said their protest was meant to raise their concern about increasingly close ties between the state and the church.

Russian parliament passed the amnesty bill last week, allowing the release of thousands of inmates. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, who were due for release in March, qualified for amnesty because they have small children.
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Putin pardons Pussy Riot members -- but he's not especially happy about it

In a news conference yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on an amnesty bill that pardoned imprisoned Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. It was part of a larger commutation of prison sentences that freed 25,000 non-violent criminals from prison.

Pussy Riot first came to international attention following a protest staged in February 2012 in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. The collective performed a song called “Punk Prayer” that stood against the impending re-election of Putin. Their imprisonment inspired a cavalcade of international celebrity support from the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney.

Though he signed off on their release, Putin clearly still has strong feelings about the group. “I feel sorry not because they went to prison, but because they committed that provocative act, which degraded women,” he told reporters.

The amnesty bill is one of a handful of attempts by Putin and the Russian government to expand humanitarian efforts in advance of the upcoming Winter Olympics, which will begin on February 7 in Sochi, Russia.

On-the-loose Russian killer demands release of Pussy Riot

The bodies of two slain women were found in Russia beneath a scrawled message demanding freedom for the jailed members of the Pussy Riot band, officials said Thursday.

While a Russian investigator cautioned that the killer was possibly trying to mislead police by drawing attention to the punk provocateurs, the alleged link between a killer and anti-Putin protesters was immediately seized upon by Russian media and pro-Kremlin publicists.

Some publications ran headlines claiming that Pussy Riot supporters “committed” or “inspired” a double homicide. The coverage was full of the mostly negative terms used by Kremlin-friendly television networks and media in their coverage of the protesters’ trial. READ FULL STORY

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