'Arctic 30' and Pussy Riot members set to get amnesty after Russian parliament backs move

Wednesday 18 December 2013 21.45
The arrest of the so called 'Arctic 30' drew criticism from the West
The arrest of the so called 'Arctic 30' drew criticism from the West

Russia's parliament has approved an amnesty that lawyers said would free two jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot and enable 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling to avoid trial.

The lower house of parliament passed the amnesty, which President Vladimir Putin proposed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia's post-Soviet constitution.

Lawyers said the amnesty, which could enter into force this week, would lead to the early release of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

Their two-year sentences over an anti-Putin protest in a cathedral have been criticised in the West as excessive.

Greenpeace said a last-minute amendment to the amnesty meant Russia would almost certainly end legal proceedings against 30 people who faced jail terms of up to seven years if convicted over a protest at an offshore oil platform in September.

This would allow the 26 foreigners among them to go home.