December 23, 2013 12:07

Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina on prison release: 'It's a PR stunt'

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has also now been released

Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina on prison release: 'It's a PR stunt'

Photo: PA

Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, who was freed from prison earlier today (December 23), has described her release as a "PR stunt".

Alyokhina was released earlier this morning as part of an amnesty approved by Russia's parliament earlier this week (December 18) to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution. As the BBC reports, her bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has also now been freed.

Speaking to Russian television shortly after her release, however, Alyokhina said she would have preferred to have stayed in prison and that she would have turned down the offer of an amnesty if she had been able to. "If I'd had an option to refuse the amnesty, I would have do so without any doubts," she said, according to Reuters.

"First of all I don't think it is an amnesty, it is a profanity, because it does not even free 10 per cent of prisoners. Secondly this amnesty does not apply to most [imprisoned] mothers and pregnant women because they are accused of very serious crimes. And the conditions these mothers are being held in do nothing for rehabilitation. So I don't think this amnesty is a humanitarian act - it's a PR stunt."

It is believed that the amnesty was announced in an effort to improve Russia's image ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which begin in Sochi in January. It 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.

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.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were both due to be released in 2014, having served some of their sentence prior to their trial. 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, revealing that she didn't expect to be released before 2014.

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