Imprisoned Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova has reportedly disappeared following a transfer to a new prison facility 10 days ago. Tolokonnikova was moved from a Mordovia prison camp and since then, her family says, they have been unaware of her whereabouts.
“No one knows anything,” Tolokonnikova’s father Andrei told BuzzFeed. “There’s no proof she’s alive, we don’t know the state of her health. Is she sick? Has she been beaten?” On Friday, her father and husband said they last knew her precise whereabouts on 21st October.
The 23-year-old Tolokonnikova was then transferred out of her Mordovia prison colony without explanation from Russian officials. The Pussy Riot member had launched a hunger strike to protest horrific prison conditions and had written an open letter condemning the “slave-like” labor camp.
Tolokonnikova’s husband, Petya Verzilov, had been regularly protesting outside of the prison camp and prison hospital with a band of supporters, angering local officials. “We think they moved her to a big city to hide her,” Tolokonnikova’s father said. “It seems they got sick of these protests.”
“They want to cut her off from the outside world,” Verzilov told BuzzFeed, indicating that the transfer decision came from Moscow officials. “This is basically the only way they have to punish Nadya — ‘let’s cut her off from the outside world,’” he said.
Tolokonnikova was transferred by train from the Mordovia camp and spotted by a fellow passenger as the train pulled into Chelyabisnk, in the Ural mountains, on 24th October, said Verzilov. According to his sources, Tolokonnikova was kept there overnight, with nothing heard of her since.
Verzilov and Tolokonnikova’s father said prison authorities had promised to inform them of Tolokonnikova’s whereabouts 10 days after she was moved. Verzilov indicated that his wife could be anywhere, saying:
“When they moved [political prisoner Mikhail] Khodorkovsky, he was also kind of absent for two weeks. Nobody knew where he was, then he suddenly appeared in Chita,” 1,000 miles east of Moscow.”
Tolokonnikova and her Pussy Riot bandmate Maria Alyokhina are slated for release in March next year. The two were sentenced to a two-year prison term on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” following an anti-Putin protest in a Moscow church.