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Pussy Riot Member: Release Is PR Stunt

A member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot who was released from prison Monday denounced her release within hours.

Maria Alyokhina told Russia's Dozhd television that she would have preferred to remain in prison. She said her release was not "a humanitarian act," describing it instead as a public relations stunt.

Officials say band mate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is expected to be released later this week.

Tolokonnikova's father Andrei told Reuters news agency last week that the planned release of the Pussy Riot band members was clearly a public relations move ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics Russia is hosting in Sochi in February.

Their release comes just days after the pardoning and liberation of anti-Kremlin tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which many saw as a bid by Russian President Vladimir Putin to improve Russia's image ahead of the Olympics.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were originally scheduled to be released in March. The Russian parliament passed an amnesty bill last week allowing for the release of thousands of inmates. The two Pussy Riot band members qualified for amnesty in part because they are mothers of small children.

The women were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a punk prayer against President Putin on the altar of Russia's most prominent Orthodox church in early 2012. Both received two-year sentences in penal colonies. Another band member received a suspended sentence.

The all-female band was protesting against the Orthodox church's support for Mr. Putin during his run for an unprecedented third term as president.

The sentencing of the members of Pussy Riot has drawn protests across the globe with critics saying it was indicative of the Kremlin's growing clampdown on dissent.

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