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Report: Kremlin amnesty could apply to Pussy Riot

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VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV | December 9, 2013 01:55 PM EST | AP

MOSCOW (AP) — A proposed Kremlin amnesty could pardon jailed members of the Pussy Riot punk band and Greenpeace activists who are awaiting trial, a Russian newspaper reported Monday.

The Kremlin-friendly daily Izvestia said the amnesty bill submitted to Parliament by President Vladimir Putin would apply to Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who have been sentenced to two years in prison on hooliganism charges for their irreverent 2012 anti-Putin protest at Moscow's main cathedral. Their term is scheduled to end in March.

However, the legislation doesn't contain names, and there has been no official confirmation that Tolokonnikova and Alekhina could be released.

The bill, which was posted on the Kremlin website Monday, applies to a wide range of inmates who haven't committed violent crimes, including women who have children. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina both have children.

Their lawyer, Irina Khrunova, told ITAR-Tass they "theoretically" fall under the amnesty, but she added that it would only be clear after it is passed by the lower house of parliament. She said the third Pussy Riot group member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, whose sentence was suspended, could also be pardoned under the amnesty.

Vladimir Vasilyev, a deputy speaker of the Kremlin-controlled lower house, said Monday that he expects quick passage of the amnesty bill, but no date has been set for the vote.

Izvestia said that the amnesty also would apply to 30 crew members of a Greenpeace ship who were detained after their protest against a Russian oil drilling in the Arctic. They were granted bail last month pending trial after spending about two months in jail. They were initially charged with piracy, but investigators later changed the charge to hooliganism.

If the two jailed Pussy Riot members and the Greenpeace activists are pardoned under the amnesty, it could help dampen international criticism of the Kremlin ahead of the Winter Games in Sochi, which start in February.

Izvestia added the amnesty also could affect Russians facing charges for their role in a May 2012 violent protest in Moscow's Bolotnaya Square. The paper said seven of more than two dozen defendants could benefit from the amnesty.

Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Rights Council, confirmed that the Pussy Riot members, Greenpeace activists and some of the Bolotnaya defendants could fall under the amnesty, the ITAR-Tass reported.

Fedotov said opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was convicted of embezzlement in a separate case and given a suspended sentence, would not fall under the amnesty. His conviction bars Navalny from running for political office for life.