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Pussy Riot Covered by Russian Amnesty, Putin Confirms

President says he 'was not sorry' protestors landed in prison

Pussy Riot
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages
December 19, 2013 10:55 AM ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who initiated an amnesty that could lead to the release of more than 25,000 prisoners in his country, said today that the bill would also free the two jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot. According to NDTV, the band's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were originally set to be released in March but will likely be discharged earlier under the amnesty, as both are mothers of small children. Neither Putin nor other Russian government officials, however, have announced a timeline.

Pussy Riot: Their Trial in Pictures

The women are both serving two-year sentences for staging a protest at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which included the filming of a music video titled "Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!" A third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed on appeal in October 2012. A lawyer for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina told The New York Times yesterday she expected a swift release.

"I was not sorry that [the Pussy Riot members] ended up behind bars," Putin said at his annual press conference, according to NDTV. "I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behavior, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women. They went beyond all boundaries."

The women's conviction drew international scrutiny, and artists like Paul McCartney, the Red Hot Chili PeppersSting and Bruce Springsteen, among others, called for the release of the Pussy Riot protestors. Earlier this year, Tolokonnikova held a hunger strike to protest the conditions in her penal colony, which drew attention and picketers to the prison. She was later moved to a new prison, where she was treated for an unspecified illness. Russia's Supreme Court last week called for a formal review of the two members' convictions.

Putin also said today that the amnesty will allow the "Arctic 30" to avoid trial. That group includes 30 people, including Greenpeace protesters, reporters and ship crew members, whom the Russian police arrested for protesting arctic drilling. McCartney recently voiced his support of the group in an open letter to Putin. Beyond the Russian president's comments today, though, it is not clear if and when those activists would be leaving Russia.

Despite these decisions, Putin made it clear that "[The amnesty] is neither linked to Greenpeace, nor [Pussy Riot]," according to NDTV. He passed it instead to mark the 20th anniversary of his country's post-Soviet constitution.

The amnesty alleviates some friction the country has had recently with the West, as Russia prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February.

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