Monday 22 January 2018

Pussy Riot to go free as Russia passes amnesty

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot.

Alex Spillius Moscow

Russia's parliament unanimously passed an amnesty bill that could free 30 crew members of a Greenpeace ship and two women from the punk protest band Pussy Riot within days.

The reprieve is widely viewed as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights records ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, though it will come too late to prevent boycotts by several heads of state.

It clearly aims to draw a line under two controversial cases that the Kremlin viewed as serious challenges to its authority but which attracted international criticism of official over-reaction and abuse of power.

The bill specifically included the charge of hooliganism, which was used to prosecute 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists over a protest at Russia's first offshore oil platform in the Arctic.

"I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place," said Peter Willcox, the American captain of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise.

"We sailed north to bear witness to a profound environmental threat but our ship was stormed by masked men wielding knives and guns. We were never the criminals here."

Pyotr Verzilov, husband of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the two jailed members of Pussy Riot, said there was nothing to stop his wife from being released if the bill was published on schedule.

Ms Tolokonnikova received a two-year sentence, which ends in March, with Maria Alekhina, for staging an anti-Putin "punk prayer" protest at Moscow's main cathedral. She has gone on hunger strike twice in protest at prison conditions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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