Russia to free Pussy Riot members and Greenpeace detainees

Wide-ranging amnesty passed by parliament

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot, who will be released from jail as early as today, after a wide-ranging amnesty law was passed by Russia’s parliament yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Maxim Shipenkov

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot, who will be released from jail as early as today, after a wide-ranging amnesty law was passed by Russia’s parliament yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Maxim Shipenkov

 


The Greenpeace Arctic 30 could be home for Christmas, and the two jailed members of punk group Pussy Riot will be released from jail as early as today, after a wide-ranging amnesty law was passed by Russia’s parliament yesterday.

The Pussy Riot pair are serving a two-year jail sentence, while the Greenpeace activists are charged with hooliganism and are currently on bail for trial in St Petersburg.

The amnesty, backed by President Vladimir Putin, is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Russia’s constitution, and is being seen as a move to boost Russia’s image ahead of February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.


‘No amnesty for the Arctic’
The Arctic 30, arrested aboard Greenpeace’s ship the Arctic Sunrise in September, expressed relief, though the ship’s captain Peter Willcox said: “There is no amnesty for the Arctic.”

He added: “I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place.”

Greenpeace says it is unclear when the non-Russians amongst the Arctic 30 will be allowed to leave the country. “At present they do not have the correct stamps in their passports, having been brought to Russia by commandos after being illegally seized in international waters.”


First-time offenders
The amnesty mainly concerns first-time offenders, minors and women with small children. Once it is signed by Mr Putin and printed in the state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, it becomes law.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot are serving two-year sentences for staging an impromptu punk performance in Moscow’s main cathedral in February 2012.

Petya Verzilov, Ms Tolokonnikova’s husband, said that although technically releases could take up to six months to be processed from the day the law is published, officials at both prisons had indicated they were ready to release the duo as soon as the law is passed. Verzilov indicated he expected them to be released as soon as Thursday. – (Guardian service)