Pussy Riot members freed

ORTHODOX ATTACK: Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot stage a performance protest in Red Square in Moscow,  January, 2012.
ORTHODOX ATTACK: Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot stage a performance protest in Red Square in Moscow, January, 2012.

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was freed from prison on Monday under an amnesty that allowed for her early release from a two-year sentence for a protest in a church against President Vladimir Putin.

Tolokonnikova shouted "Russia without Putin" after she was freed from a prison in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

Bandmate Maria Alyokhina was released from a different jail hours earlier and dismissed the amnesty as a propaganda stunt.

Alyokhina, 25, and Tolokonnikova, 24, were convicted of hooliganism for performing a crude ''punk prayer'' in a cathedral against Putin's ties to the Russian Orthodox church.

The two women had been due for release in March, but qualified the amnesty proposed by Putin, in part because both are mothers of small children.

A third band member had her sentence suspended earlier this year.

Lawyers say the amnesty will also enable 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling to avoid trial - removing an irritant in ties with the West before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in February.

Putin has said the amnesty, passed to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution, was not drafted with the Greenpeace activists or Pussy Riot in mind.

Tolokonnikova's father Andrei said on Thursday that the planned release of the band members was clearly a public-relations move ahead of the Olympics.

''It is an absolutely cynical game of the central authorities,'' he said while awaiting her release from jail in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk.

Reuters