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in brief: pussy riot members sent to prison camps

Two members of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have been sent to remote prison camps to serve the remaining two years of their sentences. (The girl band was found guilty of hooliganism earlier this year.)  The move comes despite petitioning from the women to serve their time in Moscow to be close to their children. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said the women should be released.

Alyokhina will serve her sentence in a women’s camp (‘Camp 32’) in Perm (a Siberian region almost 900 miles from Moscow and known for some of the Soviet Union’s harshest, most notorious camps). Tolokonnkova was sent to ‘Camp 14’ in Morodovia (400 miles from Moscow), with camps dating back to the Stalin regime.

Both areas have camps that comprised the Soviet-era gulag system: conditions are uniformly dire. As the band’s Twitter account said, ‘These are the harshest camps of all the possible choices.’ Voina, an art group associated with Pussy Riot, called Mordovia ‘the worst prison hell there is’.

A former inmate of the Morodovia camp, Svetlana Bakhmina, described the camp as having no hot water (‘Some women used to open radiator valves in winter to get warm water’). Prisoners washed once a week in a Turkish-style bath (a variant on a steam bath).

Marina Lapenkova from the AAP has provided insight into the Perm region, stating that ‘The Perm temperatures can fall as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius in winter, housed Stalin-era labour camps, one of which has been turned into a museum about the history of political repression.’ Prisoners are mixed in together regardless of their crimes, mixing hardened criminals with first time offenders.

Camp authorities recently turned Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, away when he tried to visit her, despite his having the necessary paperwork. He was told she had to remain in quarantine for several more days. He did, however, say that Tolokonnikova was being treated well by officials. This has been attributed to worldwide publicity on the case.

A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released in early October, a move considered by many to be a calculated act of mercy.

By Cory Zanoni

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2 thoughts on “in brief: pussy riot members sent to prison camps

  1. Pingback: Pussy Riot in prison camps | The Audacity of Nothing

  2. Pingback: In Brief: Pussy Riot free at last | lip magazine

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