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Pussy Riot band members speak out after release

MOSCOW -- The Pussy Riot punk performers jailed for protesting against Vladimir Putin remained defiant Friday in their first public appearance in Moscow after their release, painting the Russian president as paranoid and power hungry.

"If a person makes it his only goal to control everything, sooner or later, and most likely sooner, control will slip out of his grasp," Maria Alekhina, 26, one of the activists freed under an amnesty last week, told reporters. "It's impossible to control everything."

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova accused Putin, 61, who has been in power for 14 years, of being a closed person who is "afraid of many things" and believes in a conspiracy by Western powers against Russia.

The imprisonment of the band members for hooliganism after they staged a protest act against Putin in the country's main Orthodox cathedral drew condemnation from around the world. Inside Russia, their protest in the Moscow cathedral outraged many.

Five performers wearing colorful balaclavas sang a "punk prayer" in the Christ the Savior cathedral in February 2012, calling on the Virgin Mary to "expel" Putin. In August 2012 a Moscow court jailed Tolokonnikova, Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich for two years for inciting religious hatred and hooliganism. Samutsevich was released on a suspended sentence, while the other two weren't identified and remain at large.

Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, 24, said they plan to focus on helping prisoners in Russia, and proposed cooperation with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly the country's most famous inmate, who was pardoned last week. -- Bloomberg News

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