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Greens welcome Russian amnesty of Arctic 30 and Pussy Riot

The Russian parliament has approved the third reading of amnesty legislation that grants freedom to some of the government’s most vocal critics. Russian MPs passed the law today, granting amnesty to the members of the Arctic 30, and the two jailed members of Pussy Riot, among 20,000 other prisoners. The European Greens have welcomed the move, calling it an important step for improving human rights in Russia. According to EGP Co-Chair Monica Frassoni, "we as Greens have to help those activists - social, environmentalist, human rights - that are fighting to change their country."

The Arctic 30, who crewed the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise, were arrested in September after protesting drilling by Gazprom in the Arctic sea for oil. Although their boat was in international waters when they were apprehended, they were charged with piracy (although this charge was later changed to aggressive hooliganism). On 22 November all members of the Arctic 30 were released on bail. However, as charges were still under investigation, they were not allowed to leave Russia. With this new amnesty, they will be free to return home to their families. 

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot, were arrested in 2012 and convicted on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, after performing a protest song against the Russian government in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. A third, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was also convicted but released on appeal.

International human rights campaigners have called for the release of both Pussy Riot members since their arrest, noting that the sentence was vastly disproportionate to the act and was clearly designed to intimidate protesters. On the eve of the EU-Russia Summit in Brussels in December 2013, EGP Co-Chairs Monica Frassoni and Reinhard Bütikofer co-signed a letter calling for the Russian authorities to stop their crackdown, citing the Pussy Riot case as a clear example of state intimidation.

While both members of Pussy Riot were due to be released in March, the new amnesty will see them released much sooner. However, other notable critics of Putin will not be released and with a recent crackdown against civic activism, the restriction on freedoms of assembly and expression and laws discriminating against LGBT people, Russia’s human rights record stays poor.


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