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Pussy Riot members: release not humanism

ONE of two freed members of punk protest band Pussy Riot has said their release was aimed solely at ­improving Russia's image before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games and was not a ­humanitarian gesture.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, walked free under a Kremlin amnesty on Monday after serving more than 21 months of a two-year prison term for performing a "punk prayer" protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedral.

Tolokonnikova said the Winter Olympics, due to be held in February in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, were Mr Putin's pet project and anybody attending them would be supporting him.

Last week, Mr Putin also pardoned former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, viewed by Kremlin foes as a political prisoner, after he spent more than 10 years in jail.

But Tolokonnikova told a news conference yesterday: "The thaw has nothing to do with humanism. The ­authorities only did this under pressure from both Russian and Western society. There could be more repression after the Olympics."

Alyokhina said the Russian Orthodox Church had played a role in the ­jailing of three band members. The women said they would stay in Russia to campaign for better prison conditions.

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