Despite spending almost two years in a Russian penal colony, two members of the dissident Russian punk group Pussy Riot were confident and defiant as ever in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
"We were never afraid from the beginning -- neither before our imprisonment, nor during it, nor right now," Masha Alyokhina said. "We have no reasons to be afraid. We are free people, and free people feel no fear."
As the Winter Olympics get under way in Sochi, Russia, Alyokhina and her fellow activist Nadya Tolokonnikova are two of the sharpest thorns in Russian President Vladimir Putin's side.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were thrown in prison after they were convicted of "hooliganism" and inciting religious hatred for performing a punk song in a Moscow Cathedral -- and posting a video of the action online.
They served most of their two-year jail sentence for their part in the performance which was openly critical of Vladimir Putin, who was prime minister at the time.
In his annual press conference last December, President Putin said that he did not regret the Pussy Riot members' incarceration.
"I feel sorry for them because they have reached a state that led them to such scandalous behavior, which in my opinion is a disgrace to a woman's dignity," he said.
Like so many host countries before it, Russia has faced a barrage of criticism leading up to the games -- but with Russia it seems personal, and much of the venom is directed at Putin himself.
Many allege he has violated human rights -- cracking down unfairly on political opponents and dissent. And many are critical about harsh rhetoric, laws and treatment of gays.
"It is a system of slavery," Tolokonnikova said of the penal colony. "People turn into cogs, into a factory."
"You have no choice where you will work."
"Some penal colonies, for example the one I was in, Mordovia, the work day can be as long as 16 or 20 hours. And the next colony to mine, the workday was 20 hours."
"The administration does everything to make prisoners feel squashed and silent because it is easier to control people this way," she said.
Alyokhina told Amanpour that while she was not the victim of violence in prison, the use of force was rampant.
"We see violence from the part of the administration, as well as prisoners who work for the administration. They beat people when requested to do so by the administration."
The most shocking part of the penal system, she told Amanpour, was the "total lack" of adequate health care.
"If you, for example, are sick -- say you have HIV -- you have no support from outside. You will simply die in the colony most likely."
The prison administration pays far too little, she said, for reasonable medical professionals to work in the system.
In what was widely seen as a public relations move, Putin released the two activists just before Christmas.
As Russians strive for more personal freedom, Alyokhina said she is not concerned with Putin.
"We are not thinking about what Putin will be doing at all. We will be thinking about what we need to do," she said.
"If we keep looking at Putin and his repressive measures we will have to just shut ourselves in a tiny room with our head under the covers and not utter another word until the end of our days, and we have no intention of doing that."
The Russian government says that its population was shocked and outraged by Pussy Riot's public actions, but Alyokhina dismissed that notion.
"You should not be listening to federal channels," she said. "You should be listening to ordinary people, and ordinary people actually do support us."