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Pussy Riot Member Ends Hunger Strike . . . For Now

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service says Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is receiving food in the hospital.
 
 
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Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has ended her  nine-day hunger strike. Although deteriorating health forced Tolokonnikova to halt her protest against prison conditions, her husband has said that she will resume the strike if she is not transferred away from Mordovia's Penal Colony No 14.

On Tuesday,  Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service revealed that Tolokonnikova is again receiving food, two days after she was moved to a prison hospital.  According to state news agency RIA Novosti, the 23-year-old is in a stable condition and receiving diet food over a drip. While human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told Russian media that Tolokonnikova had received a promise that she would be transferred to a different penal colony, there was no such indication from her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, who said she may yet resume her fast.

Meanwhile, members of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council have published a report confirming several of Tolokonnikova's claims about conditions at Penal Colony No 14. As stated in  her open letter from 23 September, many prisoners work as many as 16 hours per day, contrary to the eight-hour legal maximum, and are underpaid for their work.

But even after conducting interviews with dozens of prison inmates, members of the council stopped short of recommending a criminal investigation into conditions at the site. They also suggested that instead of transferring Tolokonnikova to a different penal colony, she could be moved to a different division within the same site. Nevertheless, RIA Novosti reported that Tolokonnikova's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, has moved ahead with his request that Mordovian prosecutors open a case against prison administrators: Tolokonnikova alleges that, among other offences, the colony's deputy chief threatened to murder her. Authorities have denied all allegations.

Russian courts have repeatedly denied early parole for Tolokonnikova or the other jailed member of the group,  Maria Alyokhina. In a recent interview, Alyokhina said that Pussy Riot will not stage any other protests at religious sites, such as the one that resulted in  their arrest. "We've paid attention to the fact that … this [is] a criminal offence," she said on Rossiya TV. "We wouldn't go to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour again – or, unquestionably, to any other church."

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are scheduled to be released in March 2014.

 
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