BULLETIN – UPDATE: PUSSY RIOT BAND MEMBERS TO BE FREED FROM JAIL

Pussy Riot: Two members of a Russian punk band were serving a two-year jail sentence for performing a crude “punk prayer” against Putin and his ties to the Russian Orthodox church. Putin says Pussy Riot and 30 Greenpeace activists will be released. .

By Alexei Anishchuk and Steve Gutterman, Reuters / December 19, 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday two jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot would be freed under an amnesty but described their protest against him in a church as disgraceful.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, are serving a two-year jail sentence for performing a crude “punk prayer” against Putin and his ties to the Russian Orthodox church in Moscow’s main cathedral.

The two women had been due for release in March but are now expected to be freed sooner under the amnesty, in part because both are mothers of small children.

The amnesty will also enable 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling to avoid trial – removing two irritants in ties with the West before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in February.
But Putin said the amnesty was not drafted with the Greenpeace activists or Pussy Riot in mind. It was passed, he said, to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution.

“It (the amnesty) is neither linked to Greenpeace, nor this group (Pussy Riot),” he told an annual news conference.

The Kremlin leader made clear he had no doubts about Russia’s handling of both cases although it drew criticism from Western nations and a number of global celebrities.

“I was not sorry that they (the Pussy Riot members) ended up behind bars,” Putin said. “I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behavior, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women.”

“They went beyond all boundaries,” he said.

By freeing Pussy Riot members and Greenpeace activists, Russia is removing two of many irritants in ties with the West before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in February. Concern over Russia’s treatment of gays is already threatening to cloud the atmosphere at the Sochi Games.

The State Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved the amnesty proposed by President Vladimir Putin to mark the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution. Human rights activists say the amnesty is far too narrow, freeing only a tiny fraction of Russia’s more than half a million prisoners.

It will not benefit prominent Putin foes such as jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky or opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who will be kept out of elections for years by a theft conviction he says was politically motivated.

(Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel. Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alistair Lyon)

More to this article – read it here:
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2013/1219/Pussy-Riot-band-members-to-be-freed-from-Russian-jail

LAST WEEK: RUSSIA COURT ORDERS REVIEW OF PUSSY RIOT VERDICTS

Moscow (AFP) – The Russian Supreme Court has ordered a review of the guilty verdicts for two members of punk band Pussy Riot, three months before the pair are due to be released from prison, it said last Thursday.

The highest Russian court reviewed the appeal by Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and ordered the Moscow court that jailed them in August 2012 to review its guilty verdicts.

The two young women are serving two-year sentences in Russian penal colonies after being convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing an anti-Kremlin protest stunt in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

With just three months remaining in their sentence, the Supreme Court ruled that the “hatred” was never proven and their status as young mothers of underage children was ignored.
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Tolokonnikova, 24, Alyokhina, 25, and a third band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested several weeks after staging a brief “punk prayer” on February 17, 2012, in the cathedral in protest of President Vladimir Putin’s presidential campaign for a third term and the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of him.

Their trial was decried internationally as unfair and global celebrities including Madonna have called for their release. Samutsevich was released on appeal with a suspended sentence, but the appeals of Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were systematically rejected.

Alyokhina is currently serving her sentence in the Perm region in the Urals, while Tolokonnikova was initially sent to a colony in Mordovia in central Russia.

However, Tolokonnikova was recently moved to Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk following a scandal over a public letter she wrote chronicling prison abuses she witnessed in her prior colony.

She is currently staying in a hospital after a hunger strike and long prison transfer took a toll on her health.

“As far as I know, she has no complaints about her new place of stay,” deputy director of the Krasnoyarsk prison service Anatoly Rudy said Thursday, Russian news agencies reported.
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http://news.yahoo.com/russia-court-orders-review-pussy-riot-verdicts-065700985.html

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