News

Pussy Riot Members Go Free [UPDATED]

by Jillian Steinhauer on December 23, 2013

Maria Alekhina speaking with reporters upon her release (via the Committee Against Torture on Facebook)

Maria Alekhina speaking with reporters upon her release (via the Committee Against Torture on Facebook, h/t Marina Galperina/Animal NY)

After the passage of an amnesty bill in the Russian parliament last week, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the two imprisoned members of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot, have been freed, RIA Novosti reports. Both women were sent to prison colonies on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and served almost 21 months of their two-year sentence.

Under the conditions of the amnesty bill, the release could have taken up to six months, but Russian President Vladimir Putin appears eager to ease tensions with the West in the face of the upcoming winter Olympics in Sochi. Greeted by journalists upon being discharged from separate prison colonies, both women spoke critically of the amnesty and Putin: “Russia without Putin,” yelled Tolokonnikova, while Alekhina said, “I don’t think the amnesty is a humanitarian act, I think it’s a PR stunt. If I had had a choice to refuse the amnesty, I would have, without a doubt.” Instead, prison officials forced her to leave, as she told the New York Times.

Alekhina and Tolokonnikova say they are now planning to work to help prisoners and reform the prison system, according to the AP. “I saw this small totalitarian machine from the inside,” Tolokonnikova said. “Russia functions the same way the prison colony does.” She’s also urging a boycott of the Olympics.

Update, 5:00pm EST: After being out of prison for only a few hours, Maria Alekhina has staged her first “post-prison action on behalf of her activist art collective/feminist punk ‘band’ Pussy Riot,” Animal New York reports. Alekhina set off an array of red fireworks outside the prison colony where she served her sentence as a tribute to her fellow prisoners, calling it her “good-bye to the penitentiary colony.”

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic newsletter!

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.

Previous post:

Next post: