NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Maria Alyokhina, a member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, walked free from jail on Monday under an amnesty allowing her early release from a two-year sentence for a protest in a church against President Vladimir Putin.
"They've just released her," Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of fellow band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is also due to be released under the amnesty, told Reuters.
Alyokhina, 25, and Tolokonnikova, 24, were convicted of hooliganism for performing a crude "punk prayer" in a cathedral against Putin's ties to the Russian Orthodox church.
The two women had been due for release in March, but qualified the amnesty proposed by Putin, in part because both are mothers of small children. A third band member had her sentence suspended earlier this year.
Lawyers say the amnesty will also enable 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling to avoid trial - removing an irritant in ties with the West before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in February.
Putin has said the amnesty, passed to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet constitution, was not drafted with the Greenpeace activists or Pussy Riot in mind.
Tolokonnikova's father Andrei told Reuters on Thursday that the planned release of the band members was clearly a public-relations move ahead of the Olympics.
"It is an absolutely cynical game of the central authorities," he said while awaiting her release from jail in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk. (Reporting by Nikolai Isayev and Alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by David Brunnstrom)