Pussy Riot Could Be Freed Today, Thanks To New Amnesty Law

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pussyemebedPhoto: Courtesy of REX USA/Ray Tang/Rex.
Things are finally looking up for the women involved in the Pussy Riot saga. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, jailed members of the Russian punk feminist collective, could be released as early as today, according to a story by The Guardian.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina will reportedly be set free as part of an amnesty law approved by the Russian parliament Wednesday, marking the 20th anniversary of the country's post-Soviet constitution. Some other prisoners — mainly first-time offenders — will also be released, including the the Greenpeace Arctic 30, who took part in a peaceful protest against Russian oil drilling.

After their 2012 "Punk Prayer" performance protest at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior drew the ire of both government and religious authorities in Russia, the Pussy Riot members were arrested, tried, and convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” They were given two-year sentences and held in a prison camp in Berniki in the remote Ural Mountains. A third member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was also arrested, but was released on probation in October of last year.

Some have suggested that the amnesty was granted in an effort to improve Russia's image ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. President Putin's government has already faced serious criticism over the state of human rights in Russia, especially its treatment of gays and lesbians.

The amnesty law, which was amended Wednesday to include suspects in cases of hooliganism, needs only to be printed in the state newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, before it comes law. The Guardian reports that will happen today, which means that the Pussy Riot members could be released immediately after.

Petya Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband, told The Guardian, "They are slightly skeptical of course. When you're living in these conditions it's hard to think about the [Russian parliament] passing some bill, and it seems like it could never happen, so it's a big surprise for them that it does actually seem to be happening."

While it appears to be a happy ending, the Arctic 30 seem to see this as a bittersweet turn of events. "I might soon be going home to my family," said Arctic 30 member Peter Willcox via Greenpeace, "but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place." (The Guardian)