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2 Pussy Riot members released from prison

  • Maria Alekhina, second from left, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot speaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina was released from prison Monday, saying that the amnesty bill that gave her freedom was a Kremlin public relations stunt. Alekhina was one of two band members who were granted amnesty last week, which was 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. (AP Photo/Filipp Romanov)

    Maria Alekhina, second from left, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot speaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina was released from prison Monday, saying that the amnesty bill that gave her freedom was a Kremlin public relations stunt. Alekhina was one of two band members who were granted amnesty last week, which was 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. (AP Photo/Filipp Romanov)

  • Maria Alekhina, center, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot speaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/Filipp Romanov)

    Maria Alekhina, center, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot speaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/Filipp Romanov)

  • Nadezhda's Tolokonnikova speaks to the media after leaving a prison in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. The third member of the Russian punk bank Pussy Riot has been released from custody following an amnesty law passed by parliament. Tolokonnikova left the prison colony in the eastern Siberian city Krasnoyarsk on Monday, hours after another band member, Maria Alekhina, was released in another region. (AP Photo/Alexander Roslyakov)

    Nadezhda's Tolokonnikova speaks to the media after leaving a prison in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. The third member of the Russian punk bank Pussy Riot has been released from custody following an amnesty law passed by parliament. Tolokonnikova left the prison colony in the eastern Siberian city Krasnoyarsk on Monday, hours after another band member, Maria Alekhina, was released in another region. (AP Photo/Alexander Roslyakov)

  • Maria Alekhina, a jailed member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who was found guilty of hooliganism after a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin, poses for a photo in the Committee against Torture as she has been released from prison in Nizhny Novgorod, on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/The Committee against Torture) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Maria Alekhina, a jailed member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who was found guilty of hooliganism after a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin, poses for a photo in the Committee against Torture as she has been released from prison in Nizhny Novgorod, on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/The Committee against Torture) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Prisoners walk inside the prison colony where  jailed feminist punk band Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina is held, outside Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. The State Duma on Wednesday passed an amnesty bill which would release thousands of Russian prisoners including the jailed members of Pussy Riot. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

    Prisoners walk inside the prison colony where jailed feminist punk band Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina is held, outside Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. The State Duma on Wednesday passed an amnesty bill which would release thousands of Russian prisoners including the jailed members of Pussy Riot. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

  • Maria Alekhina, second from left, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot peaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/The Committee against Torture) MANDATORY CREDIT

    Maria Alekhina, second from left, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot peaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/The Committee against Torture) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Maria Alekhina, second from left, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot speaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina was released from prison Monday, saying that the amnesty bill that gave her freedom was a Kremlin public relations stunt. Alekhina was one of two band members who were granted amnesty last week, which was 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. (AP Photo/Filipp Romanov)
  • Maria Alekhina, center, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot speaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/Filipp Romanov)
  • Nadezhda's Tolokonnikova speaks to the media after leaving a prison in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. The third member of the Russian punk bank Pussy Riot has been released from custody following an amnesty law passed by parliament. Tolokonnikova left the prison colony in the eastern Siberian city Krasnoyarsk on Monday, hours after another band member, Maria Alekhina, was released in another region. (AP Photo/Alexander Roslyakov)
  • Maria Alekhina, a jailed member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who was found guilty of hooliganism after a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin, poses for a photo in the Committee against Torture as she has been released from prison in Nizhny Novgorod, on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/The Committee against Torture) MANDATORY CREDIT
  • Prisoners walk inside the prison colony where  jailed feminist punk band Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina is held, outside Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. The State Duma on Wednesday passed an amnesty bill which would release thousands of Russian prisoners including the jailed members of Pussy Riot. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)
  • Maria Alekhina, second from left, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot peaks to the media at the Committee against Torture after being released from prison, in Nizhny Novgorod, on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow's main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/The Committee against Torture) MANDATORY CREDIT

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot walked free yesterday, criticizing the amnesty measure that released them as a publicity stunt, with one calling for a boycott of the Winter Olympics to protest Russia’s human rights record.

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were granted amnesty last week in a move largely viewed as the Kremlin’s attempt to soothe criticism of Russia’s human rights record before the Games in Sochi in February.

“I’m calling for a boycott of the Olympic Games,” Tolokonnikova said. “What is happening today – releasing people just a few months before their term expires – is a cosmetic measure.”

Another member of the band, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was previously released on a suspended sentence. All three were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for a guerrilla performance at Moscow’s main cathedral in March 2012.

The band members said their protest was meant to highlight their concern about increasingly close ties between the state and the church.

Russia’s parliament passed the amnesty bill last week, allowing the release of thousands of inmates. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, who were due for release in March, qualified for amnesty because they have small children.

There has been an international outcry over Russia’s human rights record, including a law passed earlier this year that bans so-called homosexual propaganda among minors, which gay groups in Russia and abroad say feeds the existing enmity toward gay people in the country.

Tolokonnikova walked out of a prison in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk yesterday, smiling to reporters and flashing a V sign.

“How do you like our Siberian weather here?” asked Tolokonnikova, wearing a down jacket but no hat or scarf in the minus 13 Fahrenheit air. Tolokonnikova said that she and Alekhina will set up a human rights group to help prisoners.

Tolokonnikova said the way prisons are run reflect the way the country is governed.

“I saw this small totalitarian machine from the inside,” the 24-year-old said. “Russia functions the same way the prison colony does.”

Alekhina, who was released earlier yesterday from a prison outside Nizhny Novgorod, said she would have stayed behind bars to serve her term if she had been allowed.

“If I had a chance to turn it down, I would have done it, no doubt about that,” she told Dozhd TV. “This is not an amnesty. This is a hoax and a PR move.”

She said the amnesty bill covers less than 10 percent of the prison population and only a fraction of women with children. Women convicted of grave crimes, even if they have children, are not eligible for amnesty.

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