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Pussy Riot members sent to far-flung prisons, lawyer says

Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP - Getty Images

Members of the all-girl punk band Pussy Riot: Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass-walled cage in a court in Moscow, on Oct. 10, 2012.

Two members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot convicted of protesting against President Vladimir Putin in a cathedral have been sent to prisons far from Moscow despite requesting to serve out their terms in the capital, a lawyer said on Monday.

Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" in August and sentenced to two years in jail, a punishment that many in the West said was too harsh.
Their stunt — bursting into Moscow's main Russian Orthodox Cathedral to urge the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin — infuriated the church and many Russians. But Kremlin critics said their trial was part of a crackdown on dissent orchestrated by Putin, who began a six-year presidential term in May.

The two women lost their appeals on Oct. 10.


The women's lawyers said they had tried to argue they should be allowed to remain in jail in Moscow, saying it would have permitted them to be closer to their small children. They had also cited health and safety concerns at far-flung penal colonies.

"They have been sent away," one of their lawyers, Mark Feigin, told Reuters, saying he did not know where the women had been taken. By law, relatives must be informed once a convict arrives at a prison, but the trip can take days.

'We are not finished,' says freed Pussy Riot member

There is a women's prison about 60 miles from Moscow, but most are much farther away.

Former collaborators in a street-art group said on Twitter that Tolokonnikova had been sent to Mordovia, about 300 miles east of Moscow, and Alyokhina to the Perm region, near the Ural Mountains, about 700 miles east of the capital. That was not confirmed.

The duo had been held in a Moscow detention center since their arrests in March. Western governments and musicians such as Madonna had said their sentences were disproportionate, but Putin voiced support for the terms, saying the state must protect the feelings of the faithful.

Russian court sentences Pussy Riot rockers to 2 years in prison

The dominant Russian Orthodox Church has cast the punk group's protest as part of a concerted attack against the church and Russian traditions.

Russian Orthodox Church to Pussy Riot punk band: Repent before appeal

A third convicted member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on appeal when a court suspended her sentence after her lawyer argued that she had been pulled away from the cathedral's altar before the protest song began.

According to The Moscow Times, Samutsevich has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights, accusing Russia of violating her right to freedom of speech and detaining her illegally.

"The violations were very serious and very evident," Samutsevich said in an interview Friday, according to The Moscow Times. "I don’t like the fact that they did not acquit me and the other girls … and I want to challenge that before the European court. Sadly, the Russian courts have not shown objectivity or fairness." Samutsevich described the conditions of her detention, saying she was deprived of food and sleep for hours, The Moscow Times reported.

"It was constant stress, constantly being under guard, handcuffed," she said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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