One Pussy Riot Member Freed from Russian Prison

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One of three jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot was released from prison on appeal Wednesday. The other two women will continue to serve terms for their brief unauthorized church performance earlier this year protesting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Yekaterina Samutsevich’s sentence was suspended after a new lawyer for the defense said she should not have been tried with the other band members, Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, because she had not actually protested inside Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Her lawyer told the court that Samutsevich had not performed the ‘punk protest’ near the cathedral’s altar in February because she had been stopped and led away before it took place.

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“I have mixed feelings,” Samutsevich, 30, said outside the court, where she was greeted by applause and whistles from a crowd of about 150 people in the rain. “I’m happy, of course, but I am upset about the girls.” This according to Reuters. Samutsevich’s father Stanislav said he would take his daughter away for a time to rest but that when she returned to Moscow “she will fight for the rest of the girls.”

The protest was a response to Kirill I of Moscow, a Russian Orthodox bishop. Since 2009, he’s been Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus’ and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. He supports Putin. In fact, at a Feb. 8 meeting of religious leaders, he called the Putin era “a miracle of God.” He followed that by chiding democratic-reform demonstrators who produce “ear-piercing shrieks.”

Pussy Riot evidently disagreed with the Patriarch. Three of the punk group headed to Kirill’s place, Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. They reportedly crossed themselves, bowed to the altar, and began singing, asking the Virgin Mary “to drive Putin away.” The song also includes a line saying Kirill believes in Putin rather than God. But they may not have gotten that far. It took less than a minute for guards to show them the cathedral doors.

In August the court convicted the three women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. Judge Marina Syrova sentenced each to two years in prison. They could have received up to seven years.

In September, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for all three members of the Pussy Riot to be freed. Today, the appeals court did not agree.