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Freed Pussy Riot members slam Putin upon release

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, two members of the punk band Pussy Riot released from prison Monday, criticized the Russian president for weakness.
Posted By Gabrielle Levy Follow @gabbilevy Contact the Author   |   Dec. 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM
Two members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin as they were released from prisons Monday, saying their release was the act of a weak leader.

Maria Alyokhina, who along with fellow band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for performing a "punk prayer" at a Russian Orthodox cathedral, called their release a "PR stunt."

Alyokhina told reporters outside a Moscow prison that Putin only wanted to boost his international support ahead of February's Sochi Winter Olympics.

She added she would have rejected the amnesty -- she was due for release in March -- but the prison was forced to release her.

Tolokonnikova, who was freed from a prison in Siberia Monday, had a similar message.

"I would like to see Putin as a clement leader, but he is far from it," she said, through a translator. "I see it as a weakness because to free us when we have until two months left is not much after we have served two years. I would see it as a strength if he would free other political prisoners."

Two of the five members of Pussy Riot were never captured. Samutsevich was released in October 2012 after a court suspended her sentence because she was thrown out of the cathedral before the performance began.

The Pussy Riot releases were the latest in several amnesties for political prisoners, including oil tycoon Mikhail Khodokovsky, who spent 10 years in jail, ostensibly on corruption charges, but who supporters say was targeted for speaking out against Putin.

[NPR]
[NBC]

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