Two Pussy Riot Members Sent To The ‘Worst Prison Hell’

Earlier this month, a Russian appeals court freed Yekaterina Samutsevich, one of the three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, but upheld two-year sentences in a penal colony for her bandmates Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.  Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are both mothers of young children — five-year-old Filipp and 4-year-old Gera — and have both been sent to remote prison camps to serve their sentences, as their lawyer said to AFP.

Alyokhina has been sent to Perm, which is described as a “Siberian region notorious for hosting some of the Soviet Union’s harshest camps.” Temperatures there can fall below minus 50 degrees Celsius in winter.

Tolokonnikova has been to Mordovia, a region that has been chiefly known for its prison camps since the Stalin era. Then, at least 23,000 prisoners were housed there; there are now 17 prison camps in the region.

“The Worst Prison Hell There Is”

As the @pussy_riot Twitter account said, “Of all the possible options, these are the cruellest [sic] prison camps” while the art group Voina (War), which Tolokonnikova is a member of and which is closely affiliated with Pussy Riot, said that Mordovia is ”the worst prison hell there is.”

In the Guardian, former prisoner Marina Kolyakova tells Miriam Elder what it’s like in a Russian prison camp:

Wake-up came at 6am. Then exercise and breakfast. We were usually served porridge made from water. At 7.20am it was time to go to work. We sewed uniforms for soldiers, uniforms for police, uniforms for court guards.

According to the law, we were meant to work for eight hours a day, but sometimes we worked for 12. We worked from 7.30 to noon then had 20 minutes for lunch. Then it was back to work. Work was meant to last until 3.30pm, according to the law, but often it lasted until 7pm. If work ended at 3.30pm, you could go to your unit and wash and wait for dinner. There was time then for yourself – to write letters, read newspapers, watch TV. But that was very rare. Usually after work they made us clean the territory of the prison. Dinner came at 6.30pm and lights out at 10pm.

Kolyakova, who was able to get out of the prison colony after two years and now works in a factory while studying to be a lawyer, emphasized that “a person can go in totally normal and come out not a person at all. I saw it happen many times – a woman comes in under a ‘light’ charge, like theft, eventually goes free and after a while comes back on a ‘hard’ charge like murder. It breaks you as an individual.”

Free Pussy Riot: A Human Rights Cause

Last February, Samutsevich, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were convicted on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a less-than-a-minute “punk prayer” on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February.

Samutsevich was freed after a new lawyer argued that she had played less of a role in the “punk prayer” than her bandmates. She has said that she will continue to take part in anti-Putin protests and will be “more careful and more clever” so as not to be arrested again. Standing firm that she, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were “jailed for our political beliefs,” Samutsevich says she expects state pressure, including surveillance attempts, to heighten around her now that she has been released.

Noting that the three were completely deprived of information from the outside world during their detention, Samutsevich underscored the importance of their knowing the whole world was watching them on learning that Madonna had performed in Moscow with writing on her back to support Pussy Riot.

In another effort to keep Pussy Riot’s cause alive, Tolokonnikova’s husband, activist Pyotr Verzilov, went to Washington, D.C. with their daughter Gera to call on Congress to pass legislation that would place sanctions on Russian officials charged with human rights abuses, says the New York Times The Lede blog. Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova must serve the rest of their sentences until March of 2014.

The West, including the U.S., have many chances to get tough with Russia about human rights, especially since Russia is to host the Winter Olympics in 2014, in the town of Sochi on the Black Sea, an area that has seen its share of strife and opposition to Moscow. Just today, October 23, a suicide bomber blew up his car at a police checkpoint in the North Caucasus area were Sochi is located. The area has seen tensions between Christians and Muslims and is near Chechnya, where the Kremlim struggled to put down an insurgency in 1994-2000.

As Samutsevich hugged her bandmates in the class cage in the Moscow courtroom, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova said “Finally, one of us is free.” Samutsevich’s response could not have been more affirmative,”They said: keep going with the group and I said: of course.”

 

Related Care2 Coverage

1 Pussy Riot Member Free, 2 Sent To Penal Colony

Why Pussy Riot Would Be Very Upset With Legos

4 Reasons To Keep Fighting to Free Pussy Riot (Slideshow)

 

Photo of London protesters by Eyes on Rights

80 comments

Quike Asunsolo
Enrique Asunsolo4 years ago

I do hope they get freed soon!!

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Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin4 years ago

Russia's new name should be Putinia. Putin will try and rule Russia as long as he can. He had to be PM for a period so he could come back and be president again. He will continue to do so until he's too old or someone takes him out. Election fraud like in the bad old days of Bolshevism and prison camps, Gulags, hasn't changed a bit with the new Russia. It's the same with different names. Remember, Putin comes from KGB. LGBT, abortions, women's rights, freedom of the press, civil rights, etc, are easy targets for Putin and his allies. We all need to keep a close watch on Russia and the crimes against people committed and we need to urge our Governments to put pressure on Russia to respect its people.

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Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage s4 years ago

This is the way governments answer when opposed by regular people. Some made it in the news but most of them disappear......

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Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

noted, thanks for sharing

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Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy4 years ago

It seems that Russia never changes....I cant seem to fathom where they were sent...lets get real the prison needs to match the crime......prisons anywhere are evil and unfortunate that we have to have them at all..but darn lets stop this torture.........some of these places are torture....

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Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago

sad :/ they didn't even do anything bad, just a political message

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Linda S.
Linda S4 years ago

Signed.

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Jean B.
J. B4 years ago

Who wants to live in that repressive country?!!!

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Gysele van Santen

Russia doesn't play! wow. petition signed.

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Desiree Ponton
Desiree P4 years ago

Petition signed. Thanks for the article.

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