In a news conference yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on an amnesty bill that pardoned imprisoned Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. It was part of a larger commutation of prison sentences that freed 25,000 non-violent criminals from prison.
Though he signed off on their release, Putin clearly still has strong feelings about the group. “I feel sorry not because they went to prison, but because they committed that provocative act, which degraded women,” he told reporters. Pussy Riot first came to international attention following a protest staged in February 2012 in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. The collective performed a song called “Punk Prayer” that stood against the impending re-election of Putin. Their imprisonment inspired a cavalcade of international celebrity support from the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney.
The amnesty bill is one of a handful of attempts by Putin and the Russian government to expand humanitarian efforts in advance of the upcoming Winter Olympics, which will begin on February 7 in Sochi, Russia.