Two Russian punk band members jailed over a protest in Moscow's main cathedral were released from prison Monday under an amnesty deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the amnesty bill passed last week marked the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution.
Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina was the first to be released in Nizhny Novgorod, which is close to Moscow. She later said she was too much in shock at that moment to fully comprehend what has happening.
Alyokhina, the mother of a six-year-old boy, told reporters that President Putin's amnesty was a hoax and a public relations stunt.
Even though human rights activists are targets in Russia, she wants to become one and to help political prisoners. She went directly from prison to a local human rights committee that specializes in torture.
Alyokhina also said that she's no longer afraid of anything after her prison experience.
In Krasnoyarsk, another member of the group who was also jailed, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, walked through the prison gates to freedom. She was defiant, and flashed victory signs with both hands, yelling out, 'Russia without Putin,' a chant often heard during the anti-Putin protests of a year or two ago.
The amnesty that enabled their release is seen as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
Tolokonnikova agreed with Alyokhina that the pardon was a meaningless gesture, and she said if Putin really wanted to show his strength he would have released all political prisoners in the country and not just a few who had only weeks or months to go in jail.