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article imagePussy Riot Tolokonnikova—husband searches for Nadya in Siberia

By Lesley Lanir     Nov 14, 2013 in World
Moscow - Russian human rights ombudsman says Pussy Riot member Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova is in a Siberian prison. Her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, talks about the Pussy Riot member's imprisonment, punishment and his continued search for her - now in Siberia.
Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova, 24, is serving the last few months of a two-year prison term she received after being arrested for protesting against Vladimir Putin's 2012 re-election bid by performing “Virgin Mary, Kick Out Putin” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 21, 2012.
After Putin was elected to his third term as president, Tolokonnikova and another member of the punk rock band, Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, were imprisoned for 'hooliganism,' and a third Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, had her sentence suspended.
On September 23, 2013, whilst in a women's prison camp in Mordovia, Tolokonnikova went on a hunger strike stating: “I will not remain silent, watching in resignation as my fellow prisoners collapse under slave-like conditions. I demand that human rights be observed at the prison.”
On October 21, Tolokonnikova was moved from a women's prison camp in the Russian region of Mordovia and her family lost trace of her. In a previous article published on Digital Journal, it was stated that Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of Tolokonnikova appeared on Al Jazeera's current affairs program Consider This. The interview with Antonio Mora took place the same day that Russia's human rights ombudsman announced that Tolokonnikova had been taken to a prison in Siberian Krasnoyarsk region because she is formally registered as living in the city of Norilsk, the world's most northern city, in the far north of the Krasnoyarsk region and this relocation "would promote her resocialisation." Her husband and five-year-old daughter, Gera, however, live thousands of kilometers away in Moscow.
Pyotr Verzilov
Pyotr Verzilov
Jenya Demina
Verzilov states in the interview with Mora that they have received the same information about his wife's location and they are now trying to confirm that Tolokonnikova has been transferred and is where she is stated to be in Siberia.
Verzilov says that the isolation that the Russian penitentiary service has imposed over the last few weeks is viewed by her family as a punishment for Nadya's case being 'high profile' and for the attention his wife's prison sentence and actions have received nationally and internationally. He says through 'leaks' in the system from various sources he was able to understand that her transfer had been extensive through different Russian regions covering a distance of up to 5000 kms. He emphasises that she has only four months left to serve and it seems that this exaggerated transfer is a form of "punishment process" for Nadya being outspokenly critical of the Russian penitentiary system.
Tolokonnikova had complained in a letter that prisoners:
- work up to 17 hours a day for six or seven days a week
- no more than 4 hours sleep a day
- are deprived of toilet access and washing facilities
- receive regular beatings from fellow prisoners
- get one day off every 6 weeks
- eat poor quality food
East European Nations Remember Soviet Cruelties
In this drawing by a former GULAG inmate, frozen bodies of victims are thrown out of a train using meat hooks.
Wikimedia Commons
When asked whether this system was reminiscent of the Soviet Gulags, where those incarcerated were often worked to death, and whether anything had changed, Verzilov says, "the main problem with the Russian prison system is it does take its legacy back from the Gulag days," and that although reforms have taken place in some prisons the ones in the Mordovia have not been raised to the levels or basic human rights.
Verzilov is quoted speaking about Tolokonnikova's prison sentence and whether it was all worth it. He says that that political activists have to do what they feel needs to be done and there is a price the government will make them pay for their actions.
He said: "So it’s not like you know this price beforehand and you can choose your actions knowing that price. No, we do what we think must be done to change this country and then the government makes us pay this price.”
Verzilov is now in Siberia trying to find out whether his wife Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova is in the penal colony in Krasnoyarsk region where she was stated to be. Watch his interview here.
More about pussy riot, Nadezhda Nadya Tolokonnikova, Pyotr verzilov, Mordovia, Siberia
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