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After nearly two years in prison for singing a song about Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral, the women of Pussy Riot are no less defiant. Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have walked free from prisonand pledged to devote their energies to changing the political system in Russia and improving conditions inside its prisons. Bareheaded despite the C cold, Tolokonnikova walked out of prison in the eastern city of Krasnoyarsk, flashing a victory to reporters waiting outside.
Speaking to the Guardian by telephone shortly after her release from prison in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Alyokhina said free pussy.com the pair — who were released as part of a wide-ranging amnesty announced last week — now plan to launch a project which will fight for the rights of inmates in the Russian prison system. Tolokonnikova confirmed that the two women planned to meet soon to discuss the new project: "Russia is built along the same lines as a prison camp at the moment, so it's important to change the prison camps so that we can start to change Russia," she said.
Alyokhina described her prison sentence as a time of "endless humiliations", including forced gynaecological examinations almost every day for three weeks. She said: "I decided to become a human rights activist when I realised how easy it was for officials to make a decision and force women to be examined in the most intimate parts of their bodies. Russian officials should not stay free pussy.com, they cannot have this kind of absolute power over us.
Zoya Svetova, a member of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission visited Alyokhina in Moscow free pussy.com and confirmed that she had repeatedly been subjected to intimate searches. That is the most humiliating thing for any woman. I am not sure how many times Alyokhina went through it - I guess every time she left the jail to go to court," Svetova said.
Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and a third band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, who was released on appeal shortly after the guilty verdict, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for their performance of an anti-Putin "punk prayer" inside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in March The two were released as part of an amnesty initiated by Putin and backed by the Russian parliament last week, which is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution.
The women qualify because they have young children. Alyokhina told Russian television that had she been given the chance, she would have turned down the offer of amnesty, and served out the remainder of her sentence, which was due to finish in March.
Tolokonnikova called on western countries to boycott the Sochi Olympics in February in protest at the Russian regime. Samutsevich also rejected the women's amnesty. The amnesty also provides a reprieve for 30 Greenpeace activists, including six Britons, arrested aboard the Arctic Sunrise in September. They had been bailed last month but were stuck in St Petersburg waiting for a trial for hooliganism that could have seen them jailed for up to seven years.
They will now be allowed to leave Russia, though the paperwork looks like it will not be ready in time for them to spend Christmas at home. The release of Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova came just three days after another prominent prisoner, former oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was released after asking Putin for pardon and receiving it. Khodorkovsky described being woken up by prison guards in the dead of night, transferred to St Petersburg, and put on a plane to Berlin, where he spoke to free pussy.com on Sunday.
Alyokhina said that her release from jail also felt "more like a secret special operation than an act of humanism". She was woken and told she had been released, but prison officials packed her belongings without letting her decide for herself what she wanted to bring and what she wanted to leave for other inmates.
She was not given a chance to say goodbye to the friends she had made in the prison, and instead was led to a car and driven out of the prison. She was left at Nizhny Novgorod's railway station with her passport but no money, still wearing her prison overalls embossed with her name and prisoner. Alyokhina called friends at the Committee Against Torture, a local rights organisation, who came to pick her up. Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, one of the activists, said: "We were amazed that authorities would free pussy.com something this ridiculous; secretly sneaking Masha out of jail so that she would not walk free to her family, friends and reporters waiting for her outside the prison walls with flowers.
Khodorkovsky did not fall under the terms of the amnesty but was pardoned separately by Putin, who made the surprise announcement last week. Putin's spokesman said there were no conditions attached to the pardon, which came after the country's former richest man wrote a handwritten letter personally to Putin. Khodorkovsky has said he may not return to Russia for some time, however. He says he will work on human rights issues but does not plan to go into politics.
Tolokonnikova was moved to the prison in Krasnoyarsk last month, after ly serving most free pussy.com her sentence in Mordovia, a region known for its Soviet-era gulags. In the autumn, she went on hunger strike over conditions at the camp, and wrote an open letter describing slave-like working conditions and sadistic punishments.
She has said that the prison in Krasnoyarsk was much more humane, and on her release she promised that she would work to get the head of Mordovia's prison service fired. Samutsevitch and the other members of Pussy Riot are waiting for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina to return to Moscow. This article is more than 7 years old. Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina said she had had repeated forced gynaecological examinations in prison. Anna Nemtsova in Moscow and Shaun Walker.
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