July 29, 2017 / 4:01 PM / in 21 days

Putin pardons two women given prison terms for text messages

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, at the Hotel Punkaharju in Savonlinna, Finland, July 27, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday pardoned two women who were sentenced to prison terms for sending text messages to Georgian acquaintances about the movement of Russian military equipment on the eve of a war in 2008.

Two orders published by the Kremlin said Annik Kesyan and Marina Dzhandzhgava would not have to complete the rest of their sentences. It cited humanitarian principles for the decision.

Kesyan and Dzhandzhgava were found guilty of treason for sending text messages about the movement of Russian military hardware near the border with Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia not long before a war broke out in 2008.

Kesyan was sentenced to eight years in prison, while Dzhandzhgava was given a prison term of 12 years, according to Team 29, an association of lawyers based in St Petersburg.

Putin in March pardoned a third woman, Oksana Sevastidi, who was also convicted of treason for sending a text message to a Georgian acquaintance about a train carrying Russian military equipment.

Rights groups had criticized the sentences given to the women.

Team 29 said in an article on its website that in April 2008 Kesyan had sent a text message to a friend saying "Yes, they are moving", in response to a question about whether Russian tanks were moving in Sochi.

Dzhandzhgava was accused of treason for sending a text message to a Georgian acquaintance about the movement of a train carrying Russian troops, Team 29 said.

Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Stephen Powell

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