Pussy Riot Members To Be Released From Russian Jail; Is Putin Reforming?

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at a news conference that the two remaining members of Pussy Riot will be released from jail. The reasoning? No, not because he forgives them for performing the "punk prayer" in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (he doesn't). Putin says he's releasing the band members because it's the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution, and he would like to grant amnesty in honor of that anniversary.

The two remaining Pussy Riot members in jail, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, will be released three months ahead of schedule — their original prison sentence would have kept them in jail until March 2013. They had been charged with "hooliganism" back in August 2012, after they chanted a somewhat irreverent prayer to Putin in a cathedral. The Kremlin's move to imprison them brought a wave of controversy that swept around the world.

While the release of the Pussy Riot duo may be the big news, Greenpeace activists will also be released as part of the amnesty. Also known as the Arctic 30, these 30 Greenpeace activists had protested against arctic oil drilling and were promptly also arrested for "hooliganism."

We have a feeling that the Kremlin doesn't know what a hooligan looks like.

While Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are being released, let's not suddenly think Putin's decision makes the Kremlin any better. Tolokonnikova was jailed under terrible conditions at a labor camp: prisoners were reportedly beaten, forced to work naked, sew until their fingers bled, starved, and cut off from their family. Only after pleading multiple times did the Pussy Riot member have a prison transfer.

And here's what Putin had to say about Pussy Riot:

It would be too soon to say that the move to release the activists is part of a larger decision on Putin's part to moderate his anti-free-speech views. Though we wonder, is it a coincidence that this also happened yesterday?

Perhaps Putin is finally becoming concerned with his international image as a dictator.

Images: DuctTapeWrap/Tumblr, Ben Jennings/The Guardian