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Imprisoned Pussy Riot member in hospital after 5 days without food

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
updated 3:36 PM EDT, Fri September 27, 2013
Pussy Riot band members Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass-walled cage during a court hearing in Moscow on Friday August 17. Pussy Riot band members Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass-walled cage during a court hearing in Moscow on Friday August 17.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pussy Riot member is hospitalized in a medical ward, state-run media reports
  • Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote this week that she was protesting "slave labor"
  • Russian penitentiary officials deny her claims, counter that she is blackmailing them
  • She and two other Pussy Riot members were imprisoned last year after "punk prayer"

(CNN) -- Her requests for parole and a prison transfer recently denied, a member of the punk rock collective Pussy Riot was hospitalized amid a hunger strike Friday, according to Russian state-run media.

Doctors ordered that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova be placed in the medical ward of a penal colony in Mordovia, southeast of Moscow, where she is serving a two-year sentence, reported RIA Novosti, citing the Russian penitentiary service.

Her hospitalization came just hours after her request to be transferred to another prison was denied, her lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, told the media outlet.

Tolokonnikova, 23, announced she was launching a hunger strike earlier this week. Her only sustenance for the last five days has been water, according to RIA Novosti.

In a lengthy letter to the news site Lenta (a translated version was published in London's The Guardian), Tolokonnikova described "slave labor" and unsanitary conditions in which women work through sickness and injury up to 17 hours a day and are beaten -- or worse -- for failing to complete their duties.

Pussy Riot\'s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was hospitalized after launching a hunger strike this week.
Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was hospitalized after launching a hunger strike this week.
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Tolokonnikova wrote that her life was once threatened and other prisoners tell her she is not beaten only because of the celebrity her case has brought her.

"It's true: Others are beaten up. For not being able to keep up. They hit them in the kidneys, in the face. Prisoners themselves deliver these beatings, and not a single one of them is done without the approval and full knowledge of the administration," she wrote. "Mordovian prisoners are afraid of their own shadows. They are completely terrified."

Prison authorities told RIA Novosti that Tolokonnikova was blackmailing them for denying her request for special treatment, but her husband told Russian media this week that a guard had refused to give her water and grabbed her by the arms, refusing to let go.

Those claims, too, were denied, as a penitentiary spokesman told RIA Novosoti that doctors recommended only that she be given warm water and no physical force had been used against her.

Tolokonnikova and two other band members were imprisoned last year for "hooliganism" after Pussy Riot performed a "punk prayer" critical of then-Prime Minister, now President, Vladimir Putin at a Russian Orthodox cathedral. Video of the performance went viral.

While Tolokonnikova and bandmate Maria Alyokhina remain in prison, a third Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released in October 2012 after her defense presented new evidence in her case.

In July, Mordovia's Supreme Court upheld a decision to deny Tolokonnikova parole, and last month lawyers for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina requested that the court allow the pair to do community service in lieu of completing their sentences.

Tolokonnikova is scheduled to be released in March. It's unclear if she will end her hunger strike as her letter to Lenta this week states she won't relent until prison conditions change.

"I am going on hunger strike and refusing to participate in colony slave labor," she wrote. "I will do this until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle ejected from the realm of justice for the purpose of stoking the production of the sewing industry; until they start treating us like humans."

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