Two Pussy Riot members to walk free
Russia’s parliament has adopted an amnesty which would free two jailed members of the punk band, Pussy Riot and enable 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling to avoid trial.The amnesty would remove two of many irritants in ties with the West before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in February. The State Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved the amnesty proposed by President Vladimir Putin to mark the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution.
Human rights activists say the amnesty is far too narrow, freeing only a tiny fraction of Russia’s more than half a million prisoners. However, lawyers said it would lead to the early release of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who were sentenced to two years imprisonment following an anti-Putin protest in a Moscow church.
A lawyer for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, whose prison terms end in March, said she hoped they would walk free within days. “It’s a very narrow amnesty. I’m very glad it applies to my clients,” lawyer Irina Khrunova said by telephone. The amnesty will take effect when it is published in the official government gazette in the coming days.
Greenpeace activists to be released
Greenpeace said an amendment added hours before the vote would almost certainly end legal proceedings against 30 people who faced jail terms of up to seven years over a protest at an Arctic offshore oil platform in September, allowing the 26 foreigners among them, from 17 countries, to go home. “We have good news,” Greenpeace Russia said on Twitter. “The Duma has voted to grant amnesty to the Greenpeace activists.”
The arrest of the men and women, dubbed the “Arctic 30”, also drew Western criticism and was widely seen as a signal that Putin will not tolerate efforts to stop Russia’s development of the resource-rich region where nations are vying for clout.
Date20.12.2013 | 9:00