AP is reporting that Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have officially been released from prison, following an amnesty approved by Russian president Vladimir Putin. The two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were imprisoned in 2012 for staging a protest performance at a Moscow church.
Their story, and particularly that of Tolokonnikova, who went on two hunger strikes before going missing for several weeks in the course of a transfer, has drawn international attention to both the injustice of their imprisonment and also to the conditions of Russia’s prison system.
The amnesty for the prisoners (a number of unrelated prisoners were also released) is widely viewed as a public relations move in advance of Russia’s hosting of the upcoming Winter Olympics. The newly-released punk rockers made it clear that they share this view.
“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,” Alyokhina said. “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.”
She said she would have refused the amnesty and stayed in prison if she’d had the choice.
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