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Originally published December 23, 2013 at 8:31 AM | Page modified December 24, 2013 at 3:21 AM

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2 Pussy Riot members reunited after leaving prison

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were reunited on Tuesday after spending nearly two years in prison for their protest at Moscow's main cathedral, and said they want to set up a human rights organization.


Associated Press

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KRASNOYARSK, Russia —

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were reunited on Tuesday after spending nearly two years in prison for their protest at Moscow's main cathedral, and said they want to set up a human rights organization.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina were granted amnesty on Monday, two months short of their scheduled release, in what was seen as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Alekhina flew into the eastern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk early Tuesday to meet Tolokonnikova. They have said the amnesty and their release was a publicity stunt by the Kremlin ahead of the Olympics. Tolokonnikova has also called for a boycott of the Olympics.

Alekhina, still dressed in a dark green prison jacket, hugged Tolokonnikova and then shook hands.

Both women reiterated their Monday statement that they would like to focus their future work on helping prisoners, and that they will discuss setting up a human rights organization.

The band's third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on suspended sentence shortly after the three were found guilty of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison in 2012 for their protest at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

The women have denied the accusations that they were driven by hatred of religion, and said their performance was aimed at raising concern about the close ties between the church and state.

Russian parliament passed the amnesty bill last week, allowing the release of thousands of inmates, including the two Pussy Riot members.

___

Associated Press writer Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report from Moscow.



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