Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova suspends nine-day hunger strike

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The punk activist is campaigning to move to a different penal colony afteret alleging she is suffering under inhumane working conditions

Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has temporarily suspended her nine-day hunger strike.

The punk activist began her protest last month to campaign against the alleged inhumane working conditions she says she had been forced to endure at Russia’s Penal Colony No 14. In a statement released to NME, she said: “I am not calling off my hunger strike, I am temporarily suspending it because of my physical condition is now very bad and there are the beginnings of health complications.”

She says that if her demands to be moved to another prison and a full investigation into the working conditions at the colony are not fulfilled, she will recommence her protest. She says, “In the event, that any of these conditions are not fulfilled I will begin my hunger strike again.”

Last week, on the seventh day of her protest, her husband told reporters she had been moved to the prison’s hospital.

Prison authorities say Tolokonnikova is in a stable condition and is receiving food over a drip. While Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told Russian media that Tolokonnikova had received a promise that she would be transferred to a different penal colony, her comment implies that this may not be the case.

Last week, (September 23), Tolokonnikova detailed the reasons behind her hunger strike in an open letter in which she wrote: “This is an extreme method, but I am convinced that it is my only way out of my current situation.”
Describing the conditions, she had said that prisoners got “four hours of sleep a night. We have a day off once every month and a half. We work almost every Sunday.” She also said that “the hygienic and residential conditions of the camp are calculated to make the prisoner feel like a filthy animal without any rights”. Read the full letter here.

Members of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council have since published a report confirming several of Tolokonnikova’s claims about conditions at Penal Colony No 14. Many prisoners work as many as 16 hours per day, contrary to the eight-hour legal maximum, and are underpaid for their work, it found. However, the report did not recommend a criminal investigation at the site. It also suggests that instead of moving Tolokonnikova to an alternative prison, she should be moved to another division within the site.

Amnesty International subsequently called on the Russian authorities to investigate the conditions within the prison camp. Tolokonnikova and fellow jailed Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina both had appeals for parole rejected earlier this year. They are both serving two-year sentences for breach of public order motivated by religious hatred. The sentences were handed to them in August 2012 after the band performed their now infamous ‘punk prayer’ protest against President Vladimir Putin at the Cathedral of Christ The Savior in Moscow in February 2012.