News / Europe

Amnestied Members of Pussy Riot Speak Out

Two members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (R) and Maria Alyokhina (L), answer journalists' questions during their news conference in Moscow on December 27, 2013.
Two members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (R) and Maria Alyokhina (L), answer journalists' questions during their news conference in Moscow on December 27, 2013.
The two members of Russia’s all-female punk rock band Pussy Riot, who  were granted amnesty last week, are lashing out at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At a press conference Friday, newly released band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolikonnikova immediately launched into sharp criticism of Russia’s strong-arm leader.

Tolikonnikova says this week's release was a public relations stunt ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi -- a pet project of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s.  She also encouraged others to boycott the games.

Alyokhina criticized Putin’s relationship with the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, saying that it played a role in their conviction
 in 2012.

 The two were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.  On the altar of the country's most prominent Orthodox Cathedral, they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Putin.  They were each sentenced to two years in prison.

Tolokonnikova says the two will not let their time behind bars deter them from working for an improved civil society. They say they want to use their experiences to help others who are behind bars by working to reform Russia’s notoriously bad prison system.

She says the band members' ultimate goal is solidarity, a developed civil society and the ability to help one another. She says the band saw the need for reform while in prison and considers their experiences as a "real miracle," and they are very grateful to all those who supported them.

Tolokonnikova went on to say that it would be great if former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- who was pardoned and released just days before the women -- would work with them to try and fix the system.

She says the band members consider Khodorkovsky an important and very strong person with an unbelievable personality. She noted that his prison experience was much longer and much tougher than theirs. She explains that the sort of cooperation she is talking about would be mainly conceptual, focusing on an exchange of ideas.

This month's wave of Russian prisoner releases has also included a number of Greenpeace activists arrested over an Arctic protest action.

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