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Russia Adopts Amnesty Agreement Freeing Pussy Riot And The Greenpeace 30

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Russia’s parliament adopted an amnesty measure backed by the Kremlin that will free two members of the punk, anti-establishment band Pussy Riot and 30 people arrested as part of a Greenpeace protest.

The decision comes just as the White House announced that neither President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden will attend the Sochi Olympics. The Winter Games have already been marred in controversy since Russia passed a law banning “gay propaganda” last summer.

This is the first time in 20 years that Russia has amended its constitution, according to AFP.

Greenpeace protesters were taken into custody during a demonstration against oil drilling in the Arctic in September. Thirty activists from 17 different countries have been in custody for 14 weeks, some of them facing terms up to seven years in prison. Now they will likely avoid trial.

"We have good news," Greenpeace Russia tweeted Wednesday. "The Duma has voted to grant amnesty to the Greenpeace activists."

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina have been in jail for over a year, having served most of their 2-year sentences for playing an anti-Putin song in Saint Basil's Cathedral. They would have been free in March.

The amnesty measure was criticized by human rights activists who called it far too narrow. It will not benefit infamous Putin foes like opposition leader Alexei Navalny or oligarch tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It will not release anti-Putin protestors who were jailed in 2012.

"It's a very narrow amnesty. I'm very glad it applies to my clients," said Pussy Riot lawyer Irina Khrunova.

The fate of the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker ship, which belongs to Greenpeace, is uncertain. The vessel was impounded in Murmansk despite an order from an international court to release the ship to the Dutch government.

Sources: Reuters, AFP