In a surprise move by a Moscow appeals court, one of the three members of the provocative Russian punk group Pussy Riot has been released from prison. Charges against Yekaterina Samutsevich have been dropped, since she was technically ejected from the cathedral where the group staged their "punk prayer" before she could take her guitar out of its case. Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are still expected to serve out the two-year sentence the band members received in August for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."
Members of the Russian Orthodox Church encouraged the three women to repent for their crime with the hope that the appeals court would then reconsider their punishment, but all three refused on the grounds that the protest was motivated by their anger with President Vladimir Putin and not by religious hatred. The women claim that the other two members of Pussy Riot who took part in the performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral on Feb. 21 have since fled the country.