Russia Frees Jailed Pussy Riot PairWorld | December 23, 2013, Monday // 13:50| views
Russian feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L) and Maria Alyokhina (R) smile inside a glass cage in a court room after the trial at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, 10 October 2012. EPA/BGNES
Both jailed members of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot have been freed early from prison under an amnesty law.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova walked free from a prison hospital in Siberia, while band mate Maria Alyokhina, was freed earlier on Monday in Nizhny Novgorod.
The women were jailed in August 2012 after performing a protest song in Moscow's main cathedral.
The act was seen as blasphemous by many Russians, but their conviction for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" was criticised by rights groups, anti-Putin activists and foreign governments.
Their sentences were due to end in March 2014, but their release became imminent after Russia's parliament passed a law last week giving amnesty to some 20,000 prisoners, including mothers. Both band members have young children.
The amnesty was widely seen as attempt to dampen criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics, being hosted in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in February.
Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky - once Russia's richest man - was also pardoned on Friday and freed after more than 10 years in prison for fraud and tax evasion.
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