Rights groups were frustrated by the appeals court decision.
"To see these two women sent to a Russian penal colony for the crime of singing a song undercuts any claim that Putin and the Russian government have to democracy and freedom of expression," Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Washington.
"It's a very cold climate for human rights in Russia right now," Nossel said.
Putin recently said the two-year sentences were justified because "it is impermissible to undermine our moral foundations, moral values, to try to destroy the country." Defense lawyers said his remarks amounted to pressure on the appeals court.
The appeal was postponed from October 1 after Samutsevich fired her lawyers, a move prosecutors criticized at the time as a delaying tactic. Her father said the appointment of the new lawyer was decisive in securing the suspended sentence.
"This is a great happiness to me," Stanislav Samutsevich said. "But I feel sorry for other girls. They did not deserve such cruel punishment."
His daughter, a computer programmer and artist, said she would campaign for the release of the other Pussy Riot members.
"Of course, I will, naturally. They are my friends and companions in arms," Samutsevich, who at 30 is the oldest of the three, told journalists outside the courtroom. "As to the decision, I don't know why, you need to ask the court. I think this was thanks to the defense's ironclad arguments."
Her new lawyer, Irina Khrunova, said the reason for Samutsevich's release was clear: "She did not participate in the actions the court found constituted hooliganism."
Members of the original defense team, who have been outspoken in their fierce criticism of the Kremlin, said they suspected political maneuverings. "We are dealing with a political game that could be about splitting Pussy Riot," defense lawyer Mark Feygin said.