Freed Pussy Riot member dismisses Putin's amnesty as 'PR stunt'

Punk band’s Maria Alyokhina said she would have refused to leave jail

Maria Alyokhina, member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, speaks to the media at a train station in Nizhny Novgorod today. Alyokhina walked free from jail under an amnesty allowing her early release from a two-year sentence for a protest in a church against President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Maria Alyokhina, member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, speaks to the media at a train station in Nizhny Novgorod today. Alyokhina walked free from jail under an amnesty allowing her early release from a two-year sentence for a protest in a church against President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

 

Maria Alyokhina, a member of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot, dismissed a prison amnesty that led to her early release today as a ‘PR stunt’ and said she would have refused to leave jail if that had been an option.

“I do not think it is a humanitarian act,” Ms Alyokhina said of the amnesty, which was initiated by president Vladimir Putin, in comments to Russian internet and TV channel Dozhd. “I think it is a PR stunt.”

Mr Putin last week also pardoned one of his best known opponents, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

He surprised Russians and cheered the business community by announcing that he would release a man he has long reviled because Mr Khodorkovsky’s mother was ill.

The move is widely seen as a gesture to critics of his human rights record before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics at Sochi in February.

Mr Khodorkovsky’s lawyers said it was not clear when he would leave a prison camp near the Finnish border, 300 km south of the Arctic Circle.

A decree signed by Mr Putin and distributed by the Kremlin described the decision to pardon the 50-year-old Mr Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, as having been “guided by the principles of humanity”.

Mr Khodorkovsky has been in jail since he was arrested in 2003 in what supporters say was part of a Kremlin campaign to punish him for political challenges to Mr Putin, gain control of his oil assets and warn other tycoons to toe the line.

The oil baron fell out with Mr Putin before his arrest as the president clipped the wings of wealthy “oligarchs” who had become powerful during the chaotic years of Boris Yeltsin’s rule following the collapse of Soviet communism.

After a four-hour press conference last week, Mr Putin also said two members of the Pussy Riot protest group would also be freed under the amnesty.

Agencies