Pussy Riot Rockers, Convicted of ‘Religious Hatred,’ Are Released From Russian Prison

In February of last year, the Russian punk band Pussy Riot staged an impromptu performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, they had turned it into a music video entitled “Punk Prayer — Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader’s support for [Russian president Vladimir] Putin during his election campaign.

In Putin’s ever-more autocratic Russia, where nationalism mixes with increased religiosity, this was a provocation that couldn’t stand. In August of 2012, three members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years behind bars for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility.” Yekaterina Samutsevich was released within months, but Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina had to wait until yesterday to walk free again (some sources are reporting that, although the pardon is official, the pair haven’t actually been let out of prison just yet).

Pussy Riot (Natalia Kolesnikova – AFP/GettyImages)

From NBC News:

Two jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot will be freed under an amnesty that will also see the release of 30 environmental activists, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, eliminating two points of tension with the West as the country gets set to host the Winter Olympics. …

“I feel sorry for Pussy Riot not for the fact that they were jailed, but for disgraceful behavior that has degraded the image of women,” Putin said during his annual and wide-ranging televised news conference.

The affair degraded the image of Russia as a halfway respectable state, is more like it. Rolling Stone notes that the Pussy Riot case

… drew international attention, with the likes of Paul McCartney, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Bruce Springsteen and more calling on Russia to release the Pussy Riot protesters.

NBC once more:

Putin says the amnesty proposal for jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot celebrates the 20th anniversary of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution in addition to making the country’s criminal penitentiary system more merciful.

Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, who are serving a two-year sentences for a crude “punk prayer” against Putin and the Russian Orthodox church in Moscow’s main cathedral had been due for release in March but are now expected to be freed sooner under the amnesty.

It’s doubtful that Pussy Riot would have been punished with more than a fine or a symbolically brief jail sentence if the band had trespassed in a shopping center or … well, any other building than a church. That the women are freed only three months before the official sentence ends isn’t much of a reprieve, and hardly a great show of mercy — but let’s be grateful for small, um, blessings.

If and when Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina do post-release interviews, we’ll share what they have to say right here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • WallofSleep

    I’d say “Come to America, ladies”, but these brave, principled young women are on a mission to change things in their nation for the better, so I doubt they’d accept.

    More power to you gals. I wish I had more to offer than verbal support.

  • invivoMark

    I’m thinking America could use their help. Things could use some changing for the better around here, too!

  • WallofSleep

    That’s our job. But yeah, I’d love their help as well.

  • 7Footpiper

    Suggesting we form Penis Riot! No, wait…….

  • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

    I first saw that as Penis Rot. [shiver]

  • WallofSleep

    I… I got nuthin’. I think you just broke my humor circuit.

    EDIT: …
    http://assets0.ordienetworks.com/images/GifGuide/clapping/citizen_cane.gif

  • Guest

    What a riot!

  • 7Footpiper

    I think in hindsight I’ll chalk that one up to being the second stupid thing I’ve said today.

  • WallofSleep

    It’s not a competition, homie. No one is keeping score.

    But if they were, I’d be winnar!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Nadezhda has Canadian citizenship.

  • WallofSleep

    Makes her even braver in my eyes.

  • Erp

    You are also assuming the US would let them in. It can be extremely difficult to get political refugee status especially if you aren’t in the country already. The US hasn’t exactly been open even to Afghanis and Iraqis and their families who had/have been working with the US as translators, etc..

  • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

    They have my full support. And if they ever need an extra guitar/kazoo player….

  • Little_Magpie

    Well I am glad they are being released a little early… they shouldn’t have been imprisoned at all, but even a little bit is better than serving their full terms.

    Also, yeah. Keep rocking and trying to change the world, women. :)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i was, and remain, very worried about their treatment in prison. i sincerely hope they were not abused while there. what brave women. i wish them the best.

  • smrnda

    I know one of them went on a hunger strike protesting the conditions, not just hers but for everyone in the gulag. They didn’t like the negative publicity and threatened to send her to Siberia, but I think that statement had an impact here, and hopefully, it will make the conditions of Russian prisons a human rights issue that will be on the radar.

  • Schlukitz

    As do I, CD.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    How very kind of Father Putin to show mercy on them and let them go a bit early, solely out of the goodness of his heart.

    /puke

    Glad they’re out, but they’re still ‘guilty’.

  • FreethinkerCRO

    Call me cynical, but I suspect that this is more a PR move before the Sochi Olympic games. I’ll wait until a couple months after that to make any conclusions.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Oh it’s definitely a PR move, but I think they will be released if they aren’t already. Khodorkovsky is already out.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/20/world/europe/russia-oligarch-khodorkovsky-pardon/

  • Jinx

    PR move OR they need to clear some prison space for the gays.

  • Fallulah

    Thankful they are out!!! What these women had to go through because they stood up for their freedom of expression is abhorrent.

  • cr0sh

    Dear Mr. Putin: These women are stronger than you’ll ever be, you sanctimonious, self-serving toad.

  • guestpest

    What’s Jenna Fischer (center -photo) doing in Pussy Riot?

  • Without Malice

    Free the Pussy Three! The church, from the time of Constantine on, has always aligned itself with those in power and has joined with those forces to control the masses and all forms of dissent. What these women did should demand no more than a few days in jail and a fine, not imprisonment, and the true nature of the church in shown in how it has not called for their release for such a minor infraction. Religion be damned.

  • The Starship Maxima

    They never should’ve been in jail in the first place. Thank God (or…thankfully) they’re out now.