Russia adopts amnesty likely to free Pussy Riot, help Greenpeace 30

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's parliament on Wednesday approved an amnesty which lawyers said would free two jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot and enable 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling avoid trial.

The lower house of parliament passed the amnesty, which President Vladimir Putin proposed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia's post-Soviet constitution.

Lawyers said the amnesty, which could enter into force this week, would lead to the early release of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, whose two-year sentences over an anti-Putin protest in a cathedral have been criticized in the West as excessive.

Greenpeace said a last-minute amendment to the amnesty meant Russia would almost certainly end legal proceedings against 30 people who faced jail terms of up to seven years if convicted over a protest at an offshore oil platform in September. This would allow the 26 foreigners among them to go home.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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