Where is Nadezhda Tolokonnikova?
Tolokonnikova, 23, a member of the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot, who was jailed since March, 2012, after the “Punk Prayer” incident in Moscow, has vanished from sight during her transport to a new prison 11 days ago.
Pussy Riot, founded in August 2011, stages provocative guerrilla performances in unusual public locations, which are used in music videos and posted on the Internet. Their topics include feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church.
The group had staged a performance on February 21, 2012, inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The same day, they had turned the protest video into a music video titled “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away”. They said that the protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader’s support for Putin during his election campaign.
Three of the group members, included Tolokonnikova were arrested and charged with hooliganism between March 3rd and March 16th, 2012. The other two were able to escape Russia without an arrest.
On 23 September 2013, she went on hunger strike over brutal prison conditions, claiming the female inmates had no rights and were treated badly, even beaten often by the guards, and alleged threats against her life made by prison staff. She described the prison conditions in Mordovia as a “Stalinist” work camp in an open letter published in the Guardian.
The Daily Beast reports that Tolokonnikova’s husband, Petr Verzilov, the last time he received information about his wife was over a week ago, and that a train had taken her through Ulyanovsk and Ufa to Chelyabinsk. He immediately flew to Siberia to look for his wife. Unfortunately, in spite of all his efforts to find out where she was, officials preferred to keep Tolokonnikova’s location secret.
Russia still has forced labor camps dating back to the notorious Gulag system set up by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. The one Tolokonnikova was sent to in Mordovia is 445km (275 miles) east of Moscow. The authorities decided to transfer the activist to another prison 11 days ago. Neither her family nor her lawyers have been in contact with her since then and her present whereabouts are unknown.
In this Aug. 17, 2012 file photo, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sits in a glass enclosure at a court in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)