Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina is freed
Release of her collegue Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is also expected for today. From an unknown Punk band , they have become global stars, a symbol of Putin's crackdown on civil dissent. Freedom for Pussy Riot and Mikhalil Khodorkovsky serve to curb the boycott against the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Maria Alyokhina( see photo, on the left) , a member  of the Punk band Pussy Riot was released this morning at 9 from a Russian prison. During the day, friends expects the release of the companion Nadezhda Tolokonnikova too. The two had been sentenced to two years in prison for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred", after singing an anti-Putin song in the the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Savior in Moscow.

Their detention was due to end in March 2014, but the early release is due to an amnesty decided in recent weeks by President Vladimir Putin. The amnesty has also led to the liberation of the former Yukos oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was sentenced to 10 years for financial wrongdoing, but in reality for funding opposition parties to Putin.

Khodorkovsky, who flew to Berlin to visit his ailing mother ( this seems to be the official reason of the grace granted to him ), said that he is no more willing to engage in politics, but will work for political prisoners in Russia.

For the former oil tycoon , the president's decision is "a symbol of the fact that the Russian authorities , including Putin, are concerned about the image of Russia as a democratic state ."

This is even more urgent, as the Winter Olympics in Sochi  -  on the Black Sea area - are approaching ( February 2014 ): several world leaders have expressed embarassment to attend, given the serious violations of human rights.

To many observers , the release of Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot are part of a strategy to improve the image of Mr. Putin.

For the Pussy Riot,  jail time has produced an important upgrade in image : from an almost unknown Punk band, they have become the stars of a global cause , symbolizing  all the victims of the repression carried out by Putin .