Pussy Riot should not be in jail, says Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

 

Moscow

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, directly contradicted President Vladimir Putin today by stating his view that the jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot should be freed.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina were jailed for two years by a Moscow court earlier this year for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after they performed a “punk prayer” criticising President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.

An appeal court last month freed a third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, but upheld the sentences for the other two.

Mr Medvedev, during a meeting with students today, reiterated earlier comments that he did not approve of Pussy Riot’s performance but did not believe that the women should be in jail.

“I would not put them in jail if I was a judge. I simply don’t consider it right that they serve prison sentences,” he said. “They have already been in jail long enough.”

He added, however, that he found their actions so distasteful that it was “unpleasant to talk about them”.

Mr Medvedev was President from 2008 until May this year, and while in office, he tried to promote a more liberal face of Russia both internally and to the West. However, he stepped aside to allow Mr Putin to return to the Kremlin, and since May, the few liberal reforms Mr Medvedev introduced have been sidelined or revoked, and the former KGB agent Mr Putin is embarking on what appears to be a crackdown against opposition.

The President said earlier this month that the Pussy Riot women “got what they asked for” and fully deserved the jail sentences.

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