MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year jail sentence for an anti-Kremlin stunt in a Moscow cathedral, restarted a hunger strike Friday.
“On Friday Tolokonnikova declared that she was refusing food,” a spokesperson for Russia’s prison service said.
Tolokonnikova’s decision is a protest against being transferred from a hospital, where she was being treated after a nine-day hunger strike against prison conditions, back to her former prison colony Friday in violation of promises made to her by officials, her husband Pyotr Verzilov was cited by Russian news website Lenta.ru as saying.
Russia’s prison service, however, said in an online statement a few hours after the renewed hunger strike announcement that Tolokonnikova would be moved to a different prison colony due to her having expressed fear over her personal safety at her current colony in the Russian republic of Mordovia.
In an expression of solidarity, Maria Alyokhina, the other jailed member of Pussy Riot, said at an appeal hearing in the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod on Friday that she had withdrawn a request for early release because of the way in which Tolokonnikova was being treated, RAPSI legal news service reported. Alyokhina, 26, conducted an 11-day hunger strike against conditions in her own prison colony in June.
One of Tolokonnikova’s relatives will be informed of the location of her new prison colony within 10 days of her arrival there, the Russian prison service said.
Last month Tolokonnikova, 23, published a letter that described in graphic detail the brutal conditions inside prison colony IK-14 in Mordovia, where she has been serving her sentence since after the end of her trial in August last year. She alleged that prisoners work up to 17 hours a day for six or seven days a week, are deprived of toilet access and washing facilities, and are subject to regular beatings.
In a recent open letter published by Lenta.ru, Tolokonnikova said that a “political” decision had been taken to impose an “information blockade” on her after she criticized prison conditions.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who both have young children, are currently serving two-year jail sentences for taking part in a brief anti-Putin “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February last year. A third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was given a suspended sentence on appeal.
Both Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are due to be released in March 2014.
Updated with Prison Service announcement that Tolokonnikova will be moved