Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has vanished. Over two weeks ago the Pussy Riot member was moved to a new penal colony, with no explanation as to where she is, or what condition she is in.
“No one knows anything” says her father, Andrei Tolokonnikova. “There’s no proof she’s alive, we don’t know the state of her health. Is she sick? Has she been beaten?
“We think they [the Russian authorities] moved her to a big city to hide her”, he continues, “It seems they got sick of these protests.”
After two hunger strikes in protest against the prison’s horrific working and living conditions, the 23-year-old Tolokonnikova of the punk rock protest band Pussy Riot is physically very weak. In an open letter she explained that her treatment at the penal colony in Mordovia was "slave-like" and that prison staff have been abusive and made threats against her life.
Mordovia, located to the east of Moscow, is reported to have labour camps dating back to the notoriously brutal Gulag system initiated by Joseph Stalin.
It was only after Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, voiced serious worry regarding his wife’s sudden disappearance to media outlets that Russia's prison service announced that she had been transferred elsewhere.
Verzilov, who insists that "Nadya is being deliberately cut off from the outside world,” believes that the authorities are trying to break her down.
In March 2012, Nadya Tolokonnikova and fellow band member Maria Alyokhina were arrested for "premeditated hooliganism” following a musical protest against President Vladimir Putin in a catherdral in Moscow. They were both sentenced to two years in prison, raising massive worldwide support from musicians, politicians and artist supporting free speech and artistic liberty. These include Bono, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Madonna and Stephen Fry.
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