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Pussy Riot inmate 'missing'; Russian officials trying to shut her up?

November 02, 2013|By Amy Hubbard | This post has been corrected. Please see the note below.
  • Pussy Riot punk band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a single confinement cell last month at the penal colony in the village of Partza, Russia.
Pussy Riot punk band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a single confinement… (Ilya Shablinsky / AFP/Getty…)

Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, imprisoned in Russia, is "missing," her family says. The member of the punk rock protest group reportedly was being transferred to a new penal colony. But her husband and other family members say it's been days and they still don't know where she is.

According to Russian prison regulations, the Associated Press reports, the family was to be informed within 10 days of her arrival at a new penal colony. That time is up, and there's been no contact, her husband says.

Tolokonnikova, 23, was sentenced to prison after a protest performance by Pussy Riot in 2012 in the main Orthodox cathedral in Moscow. It was a profanity-laced protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin that occurred at the height of the 2012 presidential campaign. She and bandmate Maria Alyokhina were found guilty of inciting religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison.

But Tolokonnikova hasn't taken her imprisonment quietly.

She complained about working conditions at the camp 300 miles east of Moscow, saying prisoners were forced to work 16 hours a day at a garment factory that produced police uniforms: "Your hands are pierced and scratched by sewing needles, your blood spread across the table." She said the prison sanitary conditions and food were disgusting and that she'd gotten a death threat from a prison official.

She went on a hunger strike for nine days to protest the conditions, then demanded to be transferred to another jail. On Oct. 18, Reuters reported, the federal Prison Service said she would be moved to a different, undisclosed jail. At the time, her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, called it "a great victory." 

But now her family is worried.

Her father and husband said the last they knew of her whereabouts was on Oct. 21, according to Buzzfeed. He told the news outlet that Tolokonnikova supporters had protested near the prison colony and hospital, and he believed officials were fed up. He said authorities in Moscow "want to cut her off" from the rest of the world.   

Mark Feygin, a former lawyer for Pussy Riot, told the L.A. Times' Sergei Loiko in September that Tolokonnikova's protests might have made her situation worse.

"By coming out against the system, Tolokonnikova is risking sanctions that can make her life much harsher in camp," including being kept from relatives, put into solitary confinement and lengthening her prison term.

For the Record, 1:58 p.m. Nov. 2: An earlier version of this post said Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is 24. She is 23.

For stories about prison controversy and more, follow me @AmyTheHub

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