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Pussy Rioters Headed to Possibly Lethal Soviet-Era Prison Camps

by Jillian Steinhauer on October 31, 2012

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova delivering a speech in court during the Pussy Riot trial (screen shot via YouTube)

Yekaterina Samutsevich, the band member released from prison earlier this month, spoke to Reuters about the Mordovia prison camp where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been sent, about 300 miles southeast of Moscow. According to the news wire, Samutsevich compared the conditions to those of Soviet-era camps, saying:

“There is no hot water in Mordovia and there are only special prison clothes given out which are very cold for the weather,” said Samutsevich. … “There is no medicine. In Soviet times they thought that if people fell ill, that was their own problem … if someone gets sick and nobody helps them, they can die — unfortunately there have been such cases and they happen periodically.”

The other imprisoned Pussy Riot member, Maria Alyokhina, who is currently on her way to a prison camp in Perm, “a Siberian region notorious for hosting some of the Soviet Union’s harshest camps,” according to the Guardian.

The three punk-art band members were sentenced on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after singing an anti-Putin song in a central cathedral in Moscow. Even though Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for the women’s release last month, Putin clearly thinks that a guerrilla protest song merits the gulag. At a dinner with journalists and academics this week, he called the protest “an act of group sex aimed at hurting religious feelings” and said, “We have red lines beyond which starts the destruction of the moral foundations of our society. If people cross this line they should be made responsible in line with the law.”

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