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Pussy Riot Member's Hunger Strike Brings Spotlight to Issues at Her Prison

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova H
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

Meanwhile, her family and lawyers have been unable to contact her for five days.

MOSCOW – The hunger strike of Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has put a spotlight on dismal conditions in her prison, but little has been known about her own situation over the past few days.

FSIN, Russia’s prison authority, has confirmed that Tolokonnikova was taken to a prison hospital Sept. 29 due to “poor health conditions” but revealed nothing else regarding the condition of the feminist punk rocker, who went on a hunger strike Sept. 23, protesting miserable prison conditions.

Tolokonnikova’s husband, Piotr Verzilov, told the Russian TV channel Dozhd that he had been unable to see her or speak to her on the phone for five days, which he said was the prison administration’s revenge for her speaking out. Dozhd also quoted Pavel Chikov, a lawyer for Tolokonnikova, as saying that she could be force-fed, although it is impossible to receive any proof of that as there has been no communication with her.

Meanwhile, the hunger strike by Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year prison sentence for her anti-Putin performance at Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in February 2012, brought public and media attention to the situation at correctional facility No. 14 in Mordovia, 500 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

The oppositionist station Dozhd and more mainstream media have run reports on the situation at the correctional facility, and state-controlled Rossiya 1 announced a show on the topic on the night of Sept. 30, although it previously ran reports claiming that other inmates questioned Tolokonnikova’s sincerity.

In the most recent developments, Ilya Shablinsky, a member of the human rights council under the auspices of the Russian president, who inspected the correctional facility, said that he found proof of Tolokonnikova’s statements about four- to six-hour overtime work, the wire service ITAR-TASS reported.