December 19, 2013 12:08

Jailed Pussy Riot members to be released

Punk band members are to be freed from Russian prison after amnesty deal is agreed

Jailed Pussy Riot members to be released

Photo: PA

Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina will be freed from prison in Russia within days, it has been reported.

The feminist punk collective's members were given two-year sentences in August 2012 after their now infamous "punk prayer" protest at Moscow's Cathedral Of Christ The Savior. They were taken to a prison camp in Berniki in the remote Ural Mountains.

The Guardian reports that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are being set free as part of an amnesty approved by Russia's parliament yesterday (December 18) to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution. It's believed that the amnesty has been announced in an effort to improve Russia's image ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which begin in Sochi in January.

The amnesty will lead to the freeing of 500,000 prisoners, including the 'Arctic 30' Greenpeace protesters who were arrested earlier this year when some of the activists tried to scale Russia's first offshore oil platform.

"It's a very narrow amnesty. I'm very glad it applies to my clients," said Pussy Riot's lawyer Irina Khrunova to Reuters.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were both due to be released in June, having served some of their sentence prior to their trial. Speaking to The Guardian, Petya Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband says: "They are slightly sceptical of course. When you're living in these conditions it's hard to think about the Duma passing some bill, and it seems like it could never happen, so it's a big surprise for them that it does actually seem to be happening."

Earlier this year Alyokhina went on hunger strike to protest prison conditions, demanding officials got rid of the locks on the doors of workshops. She spoke to NME from prison in June, revealing that she didn't expect to be released before 2014.

The amnesty which should see Tolokonnikova and Alyokina's release is backed by Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. It mainly concerns first-time offenders, minors and women with small children with some activist complaining the group of people freed is not large enough.

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