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Pussy Riot freed

The remaining two jailed members of the activist punk band were released under President Putin’s amnesty, but vow they will continue to fight for prison reform

Maria Alyokhina called the president's amnesty a "profanation" since it only applies to a small minority of prisoners

Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, walked free on Monday after an amnesty by the Russian president Vladimir Putin brought an early end to their prison terms. But the two members of the feminist collective denounced the amnesty and vowed to continue their fight for prisoners’ rights.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were found guilty in 2012 of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” when they appeared at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow to perform a “punk prayer” that denounced Putin and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Both said they think the amnesty is an empty gesture meant to improve Russia’s image before the Winter Olympics, which open in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi in February. Without the amnesty, their terms were set to end in March.

Tolokonnikova told the Echo of Moscow radio station that they had no plans to repeat their performance because “self-repetition isn’t interesting to anyone, it’s kitsch, and that’s not what we do,” but that they would actively pursue prison reform.

“What do I feel right now? First of all, a sense of responsibility,” Tolokonnikova told the radio station. “To those people whom I saw in prison. I got out, but many of those whom I encountered, and who meant a great deal to me, and other prisoners, they have remained there, and not all of them are in the best conditions of incarceration. And in regions such as Mordovia [a center of the former Soviet Gulag system which remains full of prison camps] every day of imprisonment is horrific. I would like to help them, of course, to the best of my ability.”

The women fell under a broad amnesty that frees women who are mothers of small children and prisoners who committed non-violent crimes. Others who were freed under the reform include the former oil tycoon and one of Russia’s most high-profile prisoners, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, as well as a group of 30 Greenpeace activists arrested in the Arctic during a protest against Gazprom.


Nadezhda Tolokonnikova says she will fight for prison reform
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