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Pussy Riot women should be freed: Russia PM

MOSCOW -- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that he believed that two members of punk band Pussy Riot who began two-year terms in camps for hooliganism should be released.

“I would not put them in jail if I was a judge. I simply don't consider it right that they serve prison sentences. They have already been in jail long enough,” he was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Two members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, arrived last month at corrective labour camps in the Urals and central Russia after being found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, received a suspended sentence on appeal after the judge ruled she was grabbed by guards before she could take part in a protest song against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

“The fact that one of them was freed, she was lucky,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev, who is a lawyer by training, made the comments while taking questions from teenagers who had won competitions in school subjects.

A former Russian president, Medvedev stressed that he personally found the women “very unpleasant,” adding that “I have some doubts that this group that is now famous not only in our country has anything to do with music.”

He earlier reacted to the women's sentencing by saying that his personal opinion was that there was no benefit from them staying in prison any longer, after they had spent seven months in pre-trial detention.

By contrast, President Vladimir Putin in a television documentary last month joked about the women's two-year sentences and said ahead of their appeal that he believed the court took the right decision.

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