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  • 23 December 2013, 10:29

Pussy Riot Member Freed From Russian Prison

One of the jailed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, has been released.

Ms Alyokhina, who was found guilty of hooliganism after a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin, walked free under an amnesty allowing her early release from a two-year prison sentence.

But she has dismissed the amnesty, which was initiated by Mr Putin, as a '"PR stunt".

She said: "I do not think it is a humanitarian act. My attitude to the president has not changed."

Her lawyer Irina Khrunova said she was released from the prison colony outside the Volga river city of Nizhny Novgorod and immediately went to meet a group of human rights activists.

Ms Alyokhina, 25, was sentenced alongside fellow bandmates Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 31, over the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012.

Ms Samutsevich was released several months later on a suspended sentence.

The band insisted that their protest was meant to raise their concern about increasingly close ties between the state and the church.

The Russian parliament passed an amnesty bill last week, allowing the release of thousands of inmates.

Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova qualify for the amnesty because they have small children.

The amnesty has been largely viewed as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights records ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Mr Putin also unexpectedly pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon who was widely seen by Kremlin critics and Western politicians as a political prisoner.

Mr Khodorkovsky was freed on Friday after more than a decade in jail and flown to Germany.

Ms Tolokonnikova, who is serving time in a Siberian prison, is also expected to be released this week, her husband Pyotr Verzilov said.

Both bandmates were scheduled to be released in March.

Russia's Supreme Court earlier this month ordered a review of the Pussy Riot case, saying a lower court did not fully prove their guilt and did not take their family circumstances into consideration when passing on the verdict.

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