Pussy Riot Members Will Be Freed, Putin Confirms

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Pussy Riot members
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L) and Maria Alyokhina, members of female punk band "Pussy Riot", look out from the defendent's cell in a courtroom in Moscow July 30, 2012.

Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, members of the controversial Russian punk band Pussy Riot, are cleared for release from prison three months early in accordance with a newly signed amnesty law.

Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alekhina, 25, were sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after staging a politically charged protest inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. A third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, successfully appealed her sentence and has already been released. Reuters confirmed on Thursday that Tolokonnikova and Alekhina will indeed be released from prison before their sentences end in March.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina will be freed alongside some 1,300 prisoners currently incarcerated under the amnesty law’s stipulations. At the same time, a group of 30 Greenpeace activists arrested for protesting arctic oil drilling will be released from custody and avoid a criminal trial. Pussy Riot and the so-called “Arctic 30” have attracted the support of Western celebrities such as Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen.

The Associated Press states that Putin’s new amnesty law, designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Russia’s post-soviet constitution, frees prisoners “who haven't committed violent crimes, first-time offenders, minors and women with small children." Both Tolokonnikova and Alekhina have children, granting them amnesty under the law.

Russia’s Deputy Speaker Vladimir Vasilyev says that the amnesty law goes far beyond the Pussy Riot and Greenpeace members and was not constructed with them in mind.

“Around 1,300 people will be released from prison, and 17,500 people will be relieved of non-custodial sentences. In addition, criminal proceedings against nearly 6,000 can be terminated,” Vasilyev told RT.

Though Putin confirmed that the Pussy Riot members will soon be free, he vehemently denied any support for the punk group, calling them tasteless and crass.

"I was not sorry that [the Pussy Riot members] ended up behind bars," Putin said at a press conference, Reuters reports. "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."

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