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Hunger-striking Pussy Riot inmate says prison took away her water

“Without water a person dies in a few days during a hunger strike,” said 23-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a courtroom in Moscow earlier this year.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a courtroom in Moscow earlier this year.
Image: AP Photo/sergey Ponomarev

JAILED PUSSY RIOT punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has accused Russian prison officers of cutting off her drinking water on the fifth day of a hunger strike — a move the prison service denies.

Tolokonnikova began a hunger strike at her penal colony in central Russia’s Mordovia region in protest at prisoners being forced to work excessive hours and being treated like “slaves.”

In a message sent to AFP by her husband, activist Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova said that a prison guard told her he was ordered to take away all her drinking water, and then a prisoner who fulfils the functions of an attendant removed the bottles.

“He grabbed my arms and painfully squeezed my shoulders, stopping me from moving,” she said.

At that moment, prisoner Nevecherya removed all my drinking water standing in the punishment cell in bottles.

“Without water a person dies in a few days during a hunger strike,” she said.

The 23-year-old mother of a young daughter is serving a two-year sentence for a punk protest in a Moscow cathedral last year.

The prison service denied her claim, saying on its website that it had replaced her cold drinking water with warm boiled water on medical advice.

Standoff

In a growing standoff, Tolokonnikova said that video camera footage would prove the first use of force against her in the penal colony.

The prison service in Mordovia region responded by posting a YouTube video titled “Tolokonnikova’s provocation”, which shows what it says is Tolokonnikova’s cell.


(Video: ufsinrm/YouTube)

The prison service said the footage was filmed by a video camera fixed to a prison officer’s uniform. It said it had handed the video to law enforcement authorities.

The video shows women prisoners in headscarves taking food into a cell. One is shown bringing out an empty water container after apparently pouring out its contents inside the cell.

A dark-haired woman can briefly be seen lying in bed.

Working conditions

Tolokonnikova in a letter released Monday accused her penal colony of forcing women prisoners to work up to 17-hour days in a sewing workshop.

She also said the colony’s deputy chief had hinted she could be killed by other prisoners in revenge if they were given shorter working hours and so failed to meet targets.

The prison service said in a statement that Tolokonnikova went on hunger strike after threatening to go public on prison conditions unless she was transferred to different work.

She said in another letter published on Tuesday that she had been moved to a bitterly cold isolation cell, while the prison service called it adequately comfortable.

- © AFP, 2013

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