Pussy Riot's Release Approved By Angry Vladimir Putin

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has confirmed that the two jailed members of Pussy Riot will soon be released under an amnesty bill, but scolded Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina during his annual news conference on Thursday.

"I feel sorry not because they went to prison, but because they committed that provocative act, which degraded women," Putin said.

The two women are serving two-year sentences for the anti-Putin "punk prayer," staged at Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral in February last year, during the election campaign before the president won his third term in power.

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In remarks about the amnesty bill, under which around 25,000 people who have committed nonviolent crimes, and those who are mothers of small children, are to be released, Putin stressed that neither women had received any special treatment.

"This isn't a revision of the court verdict," he said. "This is an overall decision, which applies to them."

He added the decision was a more humanitarian approach to criminal sentencing. Its adoption came on the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet Constitution, adopted in 1993.

The Pussy Riot pair had been expected to be released on Thursday, the day after the amnesty bill was unanimously adopted on its third parliamentary reading.

But prison authorities say they are waiting for documents necessary for their release, including birth certificates and other forms of identification, before they are freed.

The young women are, however, likely to be out before the new year, which is Russia's biggest annual holiday.