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Khodorkovsky lauds freed Pussy Riot rockers

By Holly Yan. Jill Dougherty and Richard Allen Greene, CNN
December 25, 2013 -- Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT)
Greenpeace activists, members of the
Greenpeace activists, members of the "Arctic 30," attend a meeting with local residents in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Monday..
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Punk rockers say they hope to work with former oil tycoon on reform
  • Khodorkovsky says Pussy Riot rockers went through "living hell"
  • The 'Arctic 30' includes 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists
  • The group was detained after some tried to scale a Russian company's oil platform

(CNN) -- Kremlin critic and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, released from more than 10 years of imprisonment in Russia last week, praised the two freed Pussy Riot rockers for enduring months of hell in prison.

"Dear girls. I know that the last months have been a living hell for you, and I am happy to learn that this torture, unworthy of a European country in the 21st century, has ended.

"Releasing political prisoners makes those in power at least a little more humane What is probably most important for you now, is to find the strength not to keep any hatred and anger in your hearts, after your ordeals of imprisonment. Congratulations!"

The punk rockers were thrilled by his comments.

"It's amazing. It would be so great for us to work with him," Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said.

With the Sochi Olympics less than two months away, Russia has freed high-profile prisoners in recent weeks.

A new amnesty law introduced by President Vladimir Putin allowed two members of Pussy Riot to leave prison on Monday, two months before the end of their two-year sentences for a performance critical of Putin.

According to Russian media, Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina qualified for amnesty under the new law because they have young children.

And last week, Putin pardoned Khodorkovsky, who had been jailed since 2003 and was convicted in 2005 of tax evasion and fraud.

Russia's international image has suffered from an anti-gay law passed under Putin, and there have been threats of protests and boycotts at the Olympics over its bans on "homosexual propaganda."

The "Arctic 30"

Russia has dropped its case against at least one of the Greenpeace "Arctic 30," the environmental group said Tuesday on its Arctic Sunrise Twitter feed.

According to Greenpeace, crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise were peacefully protesting at an oil rig to bring attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change. The oil rig belonged to Gazprom, a Moscow-based company.

The Arctic 30 includes 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists. They were detained in September after two activists left their ship and tried to scale the oil platform.

Russian authorities have accused the activists of trying to take over the oil platform and of endangering the lives of the company's employees. They say the activists' actions could have led to an environmental disaster.

Most of the activists were released from jail by late November, but still faced charges of hooliganism.

Russian authorities release most of Greenpeace protest group

Greenpeace spokesman Aaron Gray-Block said the Arctic 30 will be free to leave Russia once they get the proper stamps in their passports from the migration service.

"We know that getting those stamps would be the best Christmas present for the Arctic 30, and we hope it can occur quickly," Gray-Block said.

CNN's Tom Cohen, Diana Magnay and Phillip Taylor contributed to this report.

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