Russia frees Pussy Riot punks from prison

Russia frees Pussy Riot punks from prison
Above: Maria Alyokhina

MOSCOW - Russia on Monday freed both jailed members of anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot whose imprisonment prompted a wave of global outrage, but one immediately denounced her release as a "PR stunt".

Both Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were freed two months early under a Kremlin-backed amnesty after serving most of their two-year sentences.

Alyokhina was quietly whisked away from her prison colony in the city of Nizhny Novgorod while Tolokonnikova emerged in much more public fashion a few hours later from a prison hospital in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

The move comes just three days after the shock pardoning and liberation of anti-Kremlin tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which many saw as a bid by President Vladimir Putin to improve Russia's image ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics that it is hosting in Sochi in February.

Showing she had lost none of her fighting spirit during her incarceration, Alyokhina used her first interview after her release to slam the amnesty as a mere publicity stunt, and said that she would have preferred to remain in prison.

"I don't think it's an amnesty, it's a profanation," she told the Dozhd television channel, saying it only applied to a tiny minority of convicts. "I don't think the amnesty is a humanitarian act, I think it's a PR stunt."

"In this situation, I was just a body being moved in space, nothing depended on me," she said. "If I had a choice to refuse (the amnesty), I would have, without a doubt," she said.

Whisked away to freedom

Alyokhina's release was marked by the same kind of security that marked that of Khodorkovsky, who was not seen after his release until he touched down at a Berlin airport on Friday afternoon.

She was whisked away from the prison without speaking with the media after the highly-anticipated release, her lawyer said.

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