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Interview: Russia

Olympics one-off chance to pressure Putin, Pussy Riot's Tolokonnikova tells RFI

Pussy Riot's Nadia Tolokonnikova with Maria Alekhina at Krasnoyarsk airport after their release
Pussy Riot's Nadia Tolokonnikova with Maria Alekhina at Krasnoyarsk airport after their release AFP

The Sochi Olympics give rights campaigners a one-off chance to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pussy Riot's Nadia Tolokonnikova has told RFI. Their success is a matter of "masculine pride" for him, she said, crediting the threat of a boycott for her release from a labour camp before the end of a two-year sentence.

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Putin pardoned Tolokonnikova and fellow Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina, along with a group of Greenpeace activists, on Monday shortly before the end of their two-month sentences for "vandalism motivated by religious hatred".

Tolokonnikova told RFI's Elena Servettaz that the threat of a boycott of the Sochi Olympics was the reason why "the system has decided to show humanity" but added that only people who had little time left to serve were freed.

"People who really need to be pardoned are still behind bars," she commented.

She and Alekhina had not yet seen their children on Thursday, partly because "I don't yet feel a clear frontier between the labour camp and me", she said.

They hoped to see them in Moscow on Thursday afternoon.

"I think Vladimir Putin feels personally attached to the Olympic Games project," Tolokonnikova said. "It's a question of honour of masculine pride for him. So international presure concerning the games is important to him."

The Russian government "is working like a fairy tale" at the moment with the games being "the magic charm", she claimed. "You can only press this button once. This is a one-off chance."

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina intend to take up individual cases to expose abuse in Russia's penal system.

"We will work with people ready to take a more radical position the majority of prisoners, who have chosen tolerance, submission or even collaboration with the penal administration," she said.

"By shining the spotlight on the Russian penal system and by changing it, we will change the ideology of the state."

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