Woman Pussy Riot band member Tolokonnikova in Siberian prison hospital

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A train stop along the Trans-Siberian Railway
Passengers getting on and off the Trans-Siberian Railway in Novosibirsk. Image: Christophe Meneboeuf/Wikipedia

(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: Twenty-six days following the unexplained disappearance of Russian incarcerated Nadezhda Tolokonnikova a band member with the punk rock group Pussy Riot, her location has been revealed. The female musician, who has been serving a prison sentence along with band member Maria Alyokhina for performing what they called a punk music version of a  “molében,” a supplicatory prayer in Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Christ the Savior Cathedral. Three members from the seven member all-female band say they performed in the cathedral as an act of protest against policies of Russian President Valdimir Putin and also against what they described as use of organized religion in Russia for political means.

Local criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church’s involvement with government policies has been an ongoing theme since the post Soviet days as the church has a history of publicly supporting the Kremlin with all decisions. The church has asked for conditional clemency though for the members of the punk rock group in what they described as “mercy within the limits of law.”

After the video recorded performance, band members Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich and Tolokonnikova, were sentenced by Judge Marina Syrova with hooliganism motivated by what the judge described was religious hatred that “crudely undermined social order” as each of the women received a 2 year prison sentence.

The sentence for Samutsevich was later suspended on appeal after authorities said she had not been directly involved in the actions. Unless their sentence is extended, next March 2014 both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are due to be released from separate incarcerations.

“Passion, total honesty, and naïveté are superior to the hypocrisy, mendacity, and false modesty that are used to disguise crime. The so-called leading figures of our state stand in the Cathedral with righteous faces on, but, in their cunning, their sin is greater than our own. We put on political punk performances in response to a government that is rife with rigidity, reticence, and caste-like hierarchical structures,” said Tolokonnikova during her 2012 Khamovniki District Court case in Moscow as she stood before the members of the court .

Tolokonnikova is now being held in Regional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1 in Krasnoyarsk, a remote Siberian prison hospital for inmates with tuberculosis.

Getting to her new location by train required her to travel a long distance across four time zones, a distance that extends from her prison in Mordovia as she traveled on the Trans-Siberian Railway Network over 2,500 miles along the northern route across to Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

While she does not have TB, Tolokonnikova was transferred from what human rights advocates and Amnesty International say was previous “deplorable prison conditions” while she was incarcerated in the woman’s Prison Colony No. 14 in Mordovia where Tolokonnikova suffered from health problems after a recent hunger strike she made to bring attention to what she outlined were extreme conditions of hardship in the women’s labor prison.

“The penal colony administration refuses to hear me. But I, in turn, refuse to back down from my demands. I will not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like conditions. I demand that the colony administration respect human rights; I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves,” said Tolokonnikova while she was incarcerated and received what she has alleged were death threats by officials working at Prison Colony No. 14.

With her whereabouts unknown to her husband Pyotr Verzilov for over 3 weeks during the process of her move to the prison hospital in Krasnoyarsk, a tip-off from someone in Krasnoyarsk revealed Tolokonnikova’s current whereabouts. Before Verzilov found out the location of his wife he was petitioning each day in front the prison where Tolokonnikova had been staying previously to her travels to the Siberian prison hospital.

Tolokonnikova has been recently allowed to speak via a video call with her husband since her arrival in Siberia was officially announced.

“I’ve spoke to her – she is in good condition and in the prison hospital undergoing various diagnostic procedures related to the complications of her last Mordovian hunger strike… [She] Says that conditions are way better then Mordovia and she is cheerful….was super happy to hear that authorities in Mordovia have reversed several rejections in the investigation into her death threats and have issued a special reprimand punishment towards the head of her old prison in Mordovia,” said Verzilov to human rights advocates The Voice Project after speaking with his wife Tolokonnikova.

The Voice Project is a human rights organization that is currently working as advocates for Pussy Riot. The organization’s aim is to amplify conditions of injustice worldwide under the denial of artistic freedom through the creation, use and outreach of music as human rights protest.

Pussy Riot’s other band member still under arrest, Maria Alyokhina, is currently serving out her sentence and being held under incarceration in  a prison in the Russian Ural region of Perm.

Since the Pussy Riot band members 2012 arrests human rights activists, as well as organizations inside and outside of Russia, have sp0ken out clearly against what they describe as a ‘case of injustice’ against the women musicians.

“Amnesty International believes that the trial of the Pussy Riot singers was politically motivated, and that they were wrongfully prosecuted for what was a legitimate – if potentially offensive – protest action. The organization considers Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs,” outlined Amnesty International in January 2013.

To date since her transfer to the Siberian prison hospital Tolokonnikova has not been allowed to speak to her lawyer for her case Irina Khrunova, who has described the disappearance of Tolokonnikova as a show of muscle by the Russian government.

“As for the law, it contains no stipulations about the amount of time it should take to move a prisoner. They can do what they want. I think this was just a demonstration of power on [the authorities’] part,” said Khuronova to the Christian Science Monitor on November 15, 2013.


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