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Pussy Riot call for President Putin's ouster

Freed punk band Pussy Riot said they still wanted to see the end of President Vladimir Putin's reign in Russia. Two members of the band were giving their first press conference following their release.

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Pussy Riot press conference

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot who was surprisingly released from a Russian prison this week, repeated the band's feelings about the Russian president at a media conference on Friday (27.12.2013).

"As far as Vladamir Putin is concerned, our attitude towards him has not changed," Tolokonnikova said alongside her bandmate Maria Alyokhina, who was also released four days ago.

"We would still like to do what they put us in jail for. We would still like to drive him out."

Both women were released on Monday under a Kremlin amnesty, having served 21 months of their two year prison terms

Speaking to journalists, Tolokonnikova added she would like to see Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was also pardoned and released from prison last week, run for president.

"I would very much like to invite Mikhail Borisovich to this post," referring to Khodorkovsky by his first name and patronymic. "I am in solidarity with that," added Alyokhina.

Improving Russia's image

Tolokonnikova said their release was not a humanitarian gesture, but an attempt by Putin to improved Russia's image before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next year.

"The thaw has nothing to do with humanism. The authorities only did this under pressure from both Russian and Western society," Tolokonnikova told reporters. Adding she was fearful "there could be repercussion after the Olympics."

The games, scheduled to be held in February, were Putin's pet project, Tolokonnikova added, and that anyone planning to attend them would be supporting his cause.

"With the Olympics approaching, Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] does not want his favorite project ruined."

"Whether one likes it or not, going to the Olympics in Russia is an acceptance of the internal political system in Russia, an acceptance of the course taken by a person who is interested in the Olympics above all else - Vladimir Putin," Tolokonnikova said.

When asked by a reporter to describe Putin, Tolokonnikova said he "was closed, non-transparent and a chekist," a Soviet-era term which refers to a member of the security service.

Earlier on Friday, both women arrived in Moscow after being reunited with their children in Siberia.

In 2012, members of the punk band danced on a church altar in Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedral and attempted to sing a "punk prayer" with lyrics calling on the Virgin Mary to "drive Putin out."

Aloyokhina, Tolokonnikova and a third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested and found guilty in 2012 on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

At the time of their trial, the women said they were denouncing political ties between Putin and the Russian Orthadox Church and their intention was not to offend believers.

Samutsevich was handed a suspended sentence in October and released.

jlw/bk (Reuters, AFP)

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