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Putin’s Pardon for Pussy Riot Seen as PR Stunt

Two members of Russian punk rock protest band Pussy Riot were released from prison on Monday in accordance to an amnesty bill passed by President Vladimir Putin.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the anti-Putin group, were sentenced to a two-year prison term in different prisons following a protest demonstration against Russia’s government. Their sentence only had two months left at the time of the amnesty.

Alyokhina fiercely denounced Putin’s amnesty as a PR stunt. “I think this is an attempt to improve the image of the current government, a little, before the Sochi Olympics — particularly for the Western Europeans,” she said, maintaining that she would have preferred serving her full term. “I don’t consider this humane or merciful.”

“Two months out of the almost two years that the girls have served is not much,” said Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov. “So the effect of this amnesty for Maria and Nadezhda is not really felt.”

Tolokonnikova, who went on a hunger strike to protest poor conditions during her time in prison, was shouting “Russia without Putin” as she was released. “I became older,” she said of her sentence. “I saw the state from within, I saw this totalitarian machine as it is.”

International attention brought pressure upon the Russian government for its decision to imprison the group, especially in the West, which included a barrage of support from artists and human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Putin’s pardoning of anti-Kremlin oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky also serves to reflect a pattern in Russia’s intentions to gather up a new image. Much like with the members of Pussy Riot, Khodorkovsky’s, whose prison term started in 2003, was due for release in just a year.

About the author

Gary Bryan is an industrial marketing manager by daytime and political and social issues writer by night. You can also find his editorials at Mic.com.