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Pussy Riot member opens up about prison camp routine

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 17, 2012 7:00 EDT
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Maria Alyokhina (left) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova -- the two jailed members of Russian punk band 'Pussy Riot' -- sit in a glass-walled cage during their appeals hearing in Moscow on Oct. 10, 2012. File photo via AFP.
 
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One of Russia’s jailed Pussy Riot punks complained Monday of grey monotony and strict rules in her prison camp in the Urals mountains, in her first detailed account of her experiences.

In an article in The New Times weekly, Maria Alyokhina, 24, described her first weeks at Corrective Labour Colony No. 28 in the Perm region, where she is serving a two-year sentence for the group’s anti-Vladimir Putin performance in a church.

“Everything around is grey. Even if something is another colour, all the same it has an element of grey. Everything: the buildings, food, the sky, words,” said Alyokhina, a young mother who writes poetry and has taken part in ecological activism.

The camp is surrounded by factories belching harmful fumes and by a forest, she said.

“It is an anti-life,” added Alyokhina, who last month asked to be transferred to solitary confinement after conflicts with fellow inmates.

In the initial quarantine quarters where inmates are placed for the first days of their terms Alyokhina said women got into a routine of rising at 5:30 am.

They would run to a bathroom with three basins and two toilets for 40 prisoners and then head to breakfast at 6 am, she wrote.

“I will have to run about constantly for the next one-and-a-half years. I am getting used to things.”

The women learned prison rules by rote in a special room with a security camera where falling asleep was banned, she said.

To pass the time in quarantine, women strung together individual cigarettes because packs are banned and sewed nametags onto their uniforms, she wrote.

The camp has a workshop where women sew 12 hours a day for maximum pay of 1,000 rubles ($32.57) a month, she wrote.

The emphasis is on following rules so as to qualify for early parole, she said.

Women are more likely to get parole if they visit the prayer room although Russia is a secular state, she complained.

They also get bonus points for visiting the library and the psychologist and contacting relatives.

“Everything a prisoner does is to get a tick for early parole,” she said.

“They don’t need personalities, they need people who have got used to things.”

Alyokhina hinted she would not toe the line, however, saying that “we make different choices in a hopeless situation.”

Alyokhina and bandmates Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced in August to two years in prison for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after they performed a “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral.

Samutsevich was released on appeal with a suspended sentence in October because guards grabbed her before she could take part.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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