independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Freed Pussy Riot members reunited

Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been released under an amnesty law

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been reunited after spending nearly two years in prison for their protest at Moscow's main cathedral, and said they want to set up a human rights organisation.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina were granted amnesty on December 23, two months short of their scheduled release, in what was seen as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Alekhina flew into the eastern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk to meet Tolokonnikova. They have said the amnesty and their release was a publicity stunt by the Kremlin ahead of the Olympics. Tolokonnikova has also called for a boycott of the Olympics.

Alekhina, still dressed in a dark green prison jacket, hugged Tolokonnikova and then shook hands.

Both women reiterated their earlier statement that they would like to focus their future work on helping prisoners, and that they will discuss setting up a human rights organisation.

The band's third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on a suspended sentence shortly after the three were found guilty of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison in 2012 for their protest at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.

The women have denied the accusations that they were driven by hatred of religion, and said their performance was aimed at raising concern about the close ties between the church and state.

Russian parliament passed the amnesty bill last week, allowing the release of thousands of inmates, including the two Pussy Riot members.

Press Association

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