Russia's parliament on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that could clear the way for amnesty for an international group of protesters from a Greenpeace ship and for jailed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot.
The State Duma voted 446-0 in favor of the bill, which mainly concerns first-time offenders, minors and women with small children. The move has been largely viewed as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights record ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year.
The amnesty makes two members of Pussy Riot eligible for release, and would allow investigators to drop charges against the 30 crew members of the Greenpeace ship detained in the Russian Arctic in September.
The Pussy Riot band members were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after they carried out a February 2012 protest in Moscow's Church of Christ the Savior – Russia's top cathedral – against the Russian Orthodox Church's close ties with President Vladimir Putin.
The Greenpeace activists attempted to scale an oil-drilling rig owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom to call attention to global climate change and environmental risks of offshore drilling in coastal areas.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press