MOSCOW — Two members of the feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot were freed from prison Monday as part of an amnesty law that one of them immediately denounced as “a profanity.”
The two musicians were released after serving most of their two-year sentences for hooliganism, a charge that stemmed from the “punk prayer” they performed denouncing President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral in February 2012.
Both women emerged with their defiance intact, vowing to work to promote human rights in Russia. Many observers viewed their release under the amnesty law as a damage-control measure by the Russian government before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Their release followed that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oil tycoon who was regarded as Russia’s most prominent political prisoner. He was freed Friday after being granted clemency by Putin, and immediately was taken to Germany.
Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, 25, left a corrective labor colony in the Nizhny Novgorod region of central Russia on Monday morning; her bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, left a prison hospital in the Kransoyarsk region in central Siberia later in the day.
“My attitude towards the president hasn’t changed,” Alyokhina said in an interview with TV Rain, a private, liberal-leaning television network, upon her release. “If I had the slightest possibility to reject this mercy, by all means I wouldn’t have accepted it. … Nothing depended on me in this case.”
She called the amnesty “a profanity, because it sets free less than 10 percent of prisoners.”
Until the amnesty bill passed, both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were due for release in March.
Both women said they intend to focus on human-rights activities.
“Primarily I will be protecting the interests of those people in confinement, people with whom I served my term in colonies,” Tolokonnikova told the Itar-Tass news agency.