news

This woman has not been seen in 17 days. Why?

This is 23-year-old Nadya.

She was put in a Russian prison for the crime of singing punk-rock protest music.

But 17 days ago she went missing. Her friends, family and supporters have not heard from her since.

23-year-old mother Nadya Tolokonnikova.

Nadya’s location and condition are still unknown. Those who love her are terrified.

This is how it went down.

Nadya Tolokonnikova is a member of the activist group Pussy Riot – who made headlines earlier this year for their performance of a ‘punk prayer’ at the Moscow cathedral criticising President Vladimir Putin. The performance saw members of the band imprisoned. For more information, you can read Mamamia’s coverage here.

Tolokonnikova and another band member were sentenced to two years in prison. A third band member was only released upon appeal.

Pussy Riot members on trial – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, left, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevic

Twenty-three-year-old Tolokonnikova recently participated in a hunger strike at a penal colony in Mordovia – and complained about abuse from the prison staff, including the ‘slave labour conditions’ prisoners were subjected to – and so authorities made the decision that she should be moved to a new prison.

That was 17 days ago. And for 17 days, there was no word from Russian authorities about where she had been moved.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s husband told Buzzfeed that he had not received any news about her condition, and that her current location was being kept a secret. Pyotr Verzilov – who became the band’s unofficial spokesperson when his wife and the other band members were first arrested – said, “They want to cut her off from the outside world.”

He believes that the Russian authorities are trying to punish her.

Verzilov has also been conducting regular protests outside the penal colony in Mordovia, and thinks that his wife may have been moved to stop the protests – which in turn will stop attracting the attention of the international media and activists.

ADVERTISEMENT

Her father, Andrei Tolokonnikov, was just as worried. “No one knows anything,” he 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?”

Her father continued: “We don’t even know which part of Russia she is now in. This is a kidnap.”

The Russian government has now come forward and said that she has merely been sent to a new penal colony – but her exact whereabouts and treatment are still unknown.

Masked Pussy Riot supporters

It is known that she was passing through the city of Chelyabinsk in the Urals last month. According the Russian authorities, her exact location will be revealed “later”.

But activists are concerned about how much later, “later” could be.

Pyotr Verzilov now says that she might be on her way to the city of Krasnoyarsk. Krasnoyarsk is deep in the heart is Siberia, around 4100 kilometres east of Moscow. He received a tip off from a source within Russia’s prison administration – although has not received official confirmation – and spoke to Rolling Stone after hearing the news.

“It’s 100 percent that it’s Krasnoyarsk region,” Verzilov told the music magazine.

Verzilov believes it is likely that she will be held at Colony 50, in a town called Nizhny Ingash. It is a six-hour drive from Moscow – which makes further protests unlikely.

But the fact remains that Tolokonnikova has not been since October 21st. It’s not known when she will be seen next. And that’s juts not good enough.

For more information please visit Free Pussy Riot.

Are you concerned about the whereabouts of Tolokonnikova – or her treatment within the prison system? Do you think the members of the band Pussy Riot deserve to be in jail?