One of the Pussy Riot Grrrls Is Free

Today, a Moscow appeals court released Yekaterina "Katya" Samutsevich, the eldest of the three imprisoned collaborators from the Russian feminist art-punk collective Pussy Riot, while upholding the two-year prison-colony sentence for her counterparts, Maria "Masha" Alyokhina and Nadezhda "Nadya" Tolokonnikova.

This past summer, the three members of the anonymous activist group were convicted for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred," after a February guerrilla-attack protest-performance of an anti-Putin song in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral. In the aftermath of their arrests, they've become a global cause célèbre. Madonna performed "Like a Virgin" in a balaclava, with the words "Pussy Riot" scrawled on her bare skin. Anthony Kiedis wore a Pussy Riot shirt, Yoko Ono offered her support. But it's not fashionable celebrity endorsements that have made their case so compelling, it's that these women have consistently demonstrated an admirable strength of character, raising symbolic fists outside the courtroom, quoting Dostoevsky, and continuing to call Putin "chickenshit."

They also haven't stopped fighting. Earlier this month, Samutsevich unexpectedly fired her counsel. Today, her new lawyer argued that since her client was apprehended in the cathedral about 15 seconds after entering, Katya wasn't able to dance, sing, yell, or partake in the "aggressive movements" that offended Russia's Orthodox believers. That was enough to convince the Moscow City Court judges to release Katya on probation. According to the Russian Legal Information Agency, who live-blogged the hearing, this decision was "met with a loud proclamation of ‘hoorah's' from the audience."

Masha and Nadya remain in jail, where as they told GQ's Michael Idov, they aren't permitted to sleep under a blanket after six in the morning. Their attorneys have vowed to appeal their verdict to the European Court of Human Rights. But as Katya testified during their closing statements, "Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won."

Update: Christiane Amanpour will interview Katya on her show tonight.

[photo by AP]