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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Moscow (AFP) – The freed members of the Pussy Riot punk band said Friday they still wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin out of power and would like ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky to replace him.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, made their call for the Russian strongman to go at their first news conference, hosted by an opposition television channel and clearly aimed at touting them as figures of national importance.

“As far as Vladimir Putin is concerned, our attitude towards him has not changed,” Tolokonnikova said alongside Alyokhina on the premises of opposition television station Dozhd.

“We would still like to do what they put us in jail for. We would still like to drive him out,” said the brunette.

In February 2012, several members of Pussy Riot jumped around the altar of the church and attempted to sing what they called a “punk prayer” calling on the Virgin Mary to “drive Putin out.”

Tolokonnikova, said she would like Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was last week released under a pardon, to run for president.

“I would very much like to invite Mikhail Borisovich to this post,” referring to the Kremlin critic, who spent more than a decade in jail, by his first name and patronymic.

“I am in solidarity with that,” added the curly-haired Alyokhina.

Asked to describe Putin, Tolokonnikova said he was “closed, non-transparent” and “a chekist,” using a Soviet-era term for a member of security services.

Alyokhina slammed the top-down political system the former KGB agent has built over his decade in power.

“There are constant conspiracies, constant suspicions,” she said. “If a person is trying to control everything, has made this his main goal, then sooner or later –- and most likely sooner –- control will slip out of his hands.”

Speaking to a forest of microphones during their first news conference since their release from prison earlier this week, the young women fielded a deluge of questions from Russia and abroad.

In a possible nod to Putin’s televised call-in marathons, the two-hour news conference was dubbed “a direct line with Pussy Riot.”

Famous Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who the rocker-activists described as their role model, called in from Cambridge in England to wish them success in their future endeavors.

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