23 December: Masha + Nadia Freed Within Hours of Each Other


The Guardian reports: Tolokonnikova shouted “Russia without Putin” after she was freed from a prison in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on Monday. Hours earlier, bandmate Maria Alyokhina was released from a different jail and dismissed the amnesty as a propaganda stunt.

The two women were granted amnesty last week, in what was largely viewed as the Kremlin’s attempt to head off criticism of Russia’s human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February. Three band members were jailed after being found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for a performance at Moscow’s main cathedral in March 2012.

One, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on a suspended sentence in October 2012.
Alyokhina was released early on Monday morning by prison officials who drove her from the prison colony outside Nizhny Novgorod, and left her outside the city’s railway station, still dressed in a prison overcoat with her name written on her chest. She told the Guardian she was not allowed to pack her belongings or even say goodbye to fellow inmates. “This is typical behaviour in our penitentiary system, which is as closed and conservative as jail itself – [prison officials’] methods are all about secrecy, no information and zero transparency,” she said.

Alyokhina told the Dozhd TV channel that she was “too shocked” when she was released from the prison colony to grasp what was going on. She also said she would have stayed behind bars to serve her term if she had been free to choose. “If I had a chance to turn it down, I would have done it, no doubt about that,” she told Dozhd. “This is not an amnesty. This is a hoax and a PR move.” The Russian parliament passed an amnesty bill last week, allowing the release of thousands of inmates.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova qualified for amnesty because they have small children.
Speaking to the Guardian, Alyokhina said her release from jail felt more like “a secret special operation than an act of humanism”. Alyokhina described her prison sentence as a time of “endless humiliations”, including undergoing forced gynaecological examinations almost every day for three weeks. She said she and Tolokonnikova planned to become human rights activists: “We will be creating very special, colourful and powerful programmes to defend other innocent women in Russian prisons, who are being turned into slaves right now.”

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