Freed Pussy Riot singer: 'This is not an amnesty. It's a PR stunt'

The Telegraph: Maria Alyokhina, the Pussy Riot member who was freed from prison on Monday morning, described her release as a 'PR stunt' and said she would have stayed in jail

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a second member of the group was also released some hours later from prison in Krasnoyarsk – four time zones to the east of Moscow.

The third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on suspended sentence months after all three were found guilty of hooliganism.

The releases of the pair two and half months early was made possible by an amnesty law passed by the Russian parliament last month to mark the 20th year of the Russian constitution – part of what seems to be a concerted effort to quell international criticism of the country’s human rights record ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.

On Friday President Vladimir Putin pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who for the past ten years has been Russia’s most prominent dissident prisoner.

The thirty Greenpeace activists charged with hooliganism over an anti oil-drilling protest earlier this year and four people charged over an anti-government protest in May 2012 are also among those granted amnesty by the recent law.

But speaking shortly after her release, Ms Alyokhina denounced the amnesty as a “publicity stunt” and said that she would have refused early release if it had been legally possible.

“If I’d had an option to refuse the amnesty, I would have done so without any doubts," she said.

"First of all I don’t think it is an amnesty, it is a profanity, because it does not free even ten per cent of prisoners. Secondly this amnesty does not apply to most mothers and pregnant women [in jail] 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 is amnesty is a humanitarian act – it’s a publicity stunt.”

Ms Alyokhina, 25, was released just after 9am local time, and is expected to board a train back to Moscow.

“She is free. All the documents have been completed and signed,” her lawyer Peter Zaikin said.

But the manner of her release – she was reportedly driven from the prison to another location in the city rather than simply walking out of the prison gates – raised momentary concerns that she might be flown out of the country as Mr Khodorkovsky was on Friday.

But Pytor Verzilov, Ms Tolokonnikova’s husband, who has been in Krasnoyarsk waiting for his wife’s release since Thursday, said Monday afternoon that the release should go smoothly.

“Right now I’m feeling very good because I’ve spoken to Maria Alyokhina and she is alive and well and has not been deported to Schonefeld airport – and that means things are at least partially going to plan,” he said drily, as he warmed himself in the waiting room of Regional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1.

Source: The Telegraph