It is very difficult not to be moved at hearing that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man but for the past 10 years its most famous political prisoner, could soon be free. Who would not be, knowing that finally he will soon be reunited with his family? Likewise, who would not be happy that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, of Pussy Riot, will finally get to be with their children, and that Greenpeace’s Arctic 30 can finally go home to their families?

That’s until the reality sinks in. Russia’s prison amnesty, adopted on December 18 by parliament, shaves at most two months off the two-year sentences of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who should never have faced criminal charges, let alone been imprisoned. Every day they spent behind bars was an injustice. Khodorkovsky was scheduled to be released in six months. For years the authorities have denied him release on parole, but today President Vladimir Putin got to dramatically announce, in his signature style, that he was going to pardon – on his terms, controlling the message – the man many said was his arch-nemesis.

Khodorkovksy has lost years of his life in prison. Tolokonnikova’s and Alyokhina’s children were deprived of their mothers for almost two years. The Arctic 30 have been put through months of trauma. Two protesters facing prosecution on disproportionate “mass rioting” charges for a protest on the eve of Putin’s last inauguration have been freed, but they’ve lost 18 months of their lives. The amnesty cannot restore that time, nor can it assuage the ordeals they have endured fighting Russia’s twisted justice system.

These cases, and other serious human rights problems, have cast a long shadow over the Olympic Games in Sochi, now weeks away. For months, Kremlin-watchers have been trying to guess whether Putin would release these people before the games to solve its image problem. The more interesting question is: will anyone be convinced? Alas, there are plenty of other cases that reveal how Russia’s justice system is abused for political purposes. Russian authorities continue a criminal investigation into fraud and money laundering allegedly by Kremlin-appointed independent experts, who themselves found the second criminal case against Khodorkovsky to be deeply flawed. That’s sobering. Then there are the protesters from the May 2012 anti-Putin demonstration who are still facing prosecution, and some are still behind bars. Mikhail Savva, an activist in southern Russia, was just transferred to house arrest after seven months in prison during a politically motivated investigation, and granted a retrial. Who can forget the spectacle of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s bizarre fraud trial, when, the day after a judge handed him a five-year sentence, another judge released him so he could run for Moscow mayor?

When Russia’s government stops distorting justice to bully its critics, it will be cause for true celebration. Until that day, keep your emotions in check. And brace yourself for what could come after the international spotlight leaves Sochi.