Russia frees jailed punk band members

Both jailed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose incarceration sparked a global outcry, have been released under an amnesty law — although Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina dismissed the amnesty as a publicity stunt before the Sochi Winter Olympics in February, and promised to continue their vocal opposition to the government.

The women were jailed in August 2012 after performing a protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral, an act that was seen as blasphemous by many Russians and condemned by the Orthodox Church.

Their conviction for ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ was criticised by rights groups, anti-Putin activists and foreign governments.

The amnesty aimed to free some 20,000 prisoners, and in a separate move, President Vladimir Putin pardoned former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once Russia’s richest man, on humanitarian grounds.

He was freed after more than ten years in prison for fraud and tax evasion and has since promised to stay out of politics.