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Putin pardons tycoon, Pussy Riot; envies Teflon Obama. Then he rests

December 19, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in Moscow. (Sergi L. Loiko / Los Angeles…)

Pardon me, but no one told me that Thursday was Pardoning Day.

Turns out that President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin do have at least one thing in common (besides all those nuclear warheads, I mean): They both have something of a soft spot for (some) folks in jail.

Obama on Thursday took a small step, commuting the sentences of eight people stuck in prison because of harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug offenses.

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But his Russian counterpart had bigger fish to unfry. Putin said Thursday that he would pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil giant who was found guilty of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in 2003 -- a conviction that many suspect was orchestrated by Putin to, you know, make his political life easier.

Putin, though, apparently decided to let bygones be bygones. Of course, lest you think Vlad the Intimidator has gone soft, you should know that Khodorkovsky was slated to get out of prison next year anyway.

Putin also granted amnesty to two members of the punk band Pussy Riot. Again, it wasn’t much of a reprieve: The two, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, were due to get out in March. They were serving two-year sentences for, as Reuters reported, “performing a crude ‘punk prayer’ against Putin and his ties to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow’s main cathedral.”

Which, Putin made clear Thursday, he still wasn’t amused by. At all.

Just for good measure, Putin also threw back some small fry: 30 people who were arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling. His move allowed them to avoid trial.

Then, presumably, he rested. Or worked out. Or counted the people he didn’t pardon.

Oh yes, and at his news conference Thursday, Putin also showed that you can take the man out of the spy (agency) but you can’t the spy out of the man. Speaking of Obama and the United States’ controversial NSA surveillance program, he said:

“I envy [Obama]. Because he can do this, and nothing will happen to him because of it.”

Really? A former KGB guy envies our president?

My, how the world has turned.


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