Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich (30) has been released from prison after her two year prison term for a conviction of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ was reduced to a suspended sentence on appeal yesterday. Judge Larisa Polyakova accepted that Samutsevich, who had been prevented by guards from reaching the alter at Christ The Saviour Cathedral on February 21st, had not actual taken part in the protest, although she had intended to.
However, at the same appeal hearing her fellow band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (22) and Maria Alyokhina (24) had their original sentences upheld and therefore will remain in prison, pending further appeals and have now been transferred to two separate labour camps (gulags). Both continue to argue that their protests against Vladimir Putin were political and not religious. In an interview marking his 60th birthday, Putin told state-run TV channel NTV that the three women “got what they asked for” adding “It was right that they were arrested, and the court’s decision was right”. Russian Orthodox church members, whose leader had been visible supporters of Putin, were initially enraged by the band’s actions bur whilst the Church hierarchy said the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, it has added that any penitence shown should be taken into consideration. Those comments followed a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment, although opinion polls in Russia show substantial support for the sentences. One poll found 43% of respondents considered the sentence too lenient