Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Russia

Pussy Riot Members Freed, Call Amnesty 'Laughable'

Pussy Riot Member Alyokhinka To Address Prison Issuesi
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December 23, 2013
Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina was released from prison in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on December 23. Speaking to journalists before a visit to the Committee Against Torture together with her lawyer, Alyokhinka said that she intends to pursue a career in human rights. (Reuters)

WATCH: Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhinka says she plans to address prison issues.

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By RFE/RL's Russian Service
Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina have been released under an amnesty introduced last week, but described Russian President Vladimir Putin's clemency as "laughable" and a "PR stunt."

Tolokonnikova was released on December 23 from a prison hospital in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk just hours after fellow Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina walked free from a penitentiary in Nizhny Novgorod.

Speaking to reporters, Tolokonnikova called for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics to draw attention on human rights violations in Russia.

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"What's happening now amounts to some cosmetic measures -- to release people who have only a couple of months left before the end of their prison terms, to release [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky who also had only a little time left [before his regular release] -- all of this is laughable. Such an amnesty should be of a much larger scale, then European countries could review their opinion regarding the Olympic Games," she said.

"Now, however, I am calling for a boycott, for honesty, I am calling for all of us not to sell ourselves for all this oil and gas that Russia can give. I am calling for all humanistic standards, traditions, and regulations to be applied -- the norms that Europe is promoting," Tolokonnikova continued. "Then honesty would really prevail."

She added that she will be engaged in human rights activities focusing on inmates’ rights and compared her country with a prison.

"I grew more mature. I got to know this state from the inside, I saw this little totalitarian machinery from the inside," Tolokonnikova said.

"Russia indeed is built on the model of a prison camp. This is why it is so important to change these colonies in order to change Russia itself. Penitentiary colonies and prisons are the face of a country." 

Freed Pussy Riot Member Calls For Boycott Of Sochi Olympicsi
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December 23, 2013
Released Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has called for an international boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics to draw attention to human rights violations in Russia. Speaking to reporters in Krasnoyarsk, Tolokonnikova said her time in prison only strengthened her resolve to fight for human rights in Russia.
WATCH: Tolokonnikova calls for boycott of Sochi Olympics  
 
Tolokonnikova was transferred to a penitentiary in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk last month after going on a hunger strike to protest conditions and alleged death threats by officials at a prison colony in Russia's Republic of Mordovia.

Earlier, Alyokhina said her release was part of "a public relations stunt" by the government, and if given a voice, she would have refused it.

"If I had the slightest opportunity not to use that clemency, I obviously would not use it. But [the order] given to the penitentiary has been carried out," Alyokhina told Russia's Dozhd TV.

"In that situation I was just a body that was moved. Nothing was up to me. If I had a chance to refuse the amnesty I would have done so."

Alyokhina added that she planned to focus on human rights activities as well.

"I will keep an eye on the situation in the Nizhny Novgorod prison. Women who spoke out against labor-law violations should be heard and their rights should not be violated anymore in any way. There should be no repressions against them from the prison management or other law enforcement agencies," she said.

"I intend to follow that situation and I intend to keep in contact with them. I wish them courage. I am with them."

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, last week voted unanimously in favor of an amnesty that affected both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova.

Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and fellow Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested in March 2012 after performing what they called a "punk prayer" against Russian President Vladimir Putin at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were later convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and sentenced to two years in jail.

Samutsevich was also convicted and received a suspended two-year sentence.

The sentences were condemned by Western governments and rights groups as disproportionate.

London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International issued a statement saying the harassment of civil society in Russia will continue unabated despite the clemency.

Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International John Dalhuisen said that the release of Pussy Riot members and Khodorkovsky, as well as other detainees, "cannot be seen as a benign act of clemency, but a politically expedient move in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics."

With reporting by RIA Novosti, Tvrain.ru, and Reuters

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