Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, have been exiled to prison camps far from Moscow, despite their request to be sent to jails closer to the Russian capital. According to their friends, Alyokhina has been sent 700 miles east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains region, while Tolokonnikova has been sent to Mordovia, 300 miles east of Moscow.
The women wanted to remain nearer to Moscow so that they would be closer to their young children. Their have lawyers cited several health and safety concerns regarding the women being sent so far away as well.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were initially convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” on August 17th, due to performing a protest song in February entitled “Punk Prayer — Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. The international community, including UCSJ, has decried that these women are being punished for exercising their freedom of speech rights.
Their unjust treatment continues, and now their safety is in serious jeopardy While it is required by law for their family members to be told when they arrive at their respective prison camps, the journey can take days.
Judith Pallot describes what she found from her research of women’s prison camps in Russia: “Journeys to prison in Russia can follow meandering routes criss-crossing Russia as convicted prisoners – men, women, juveniles – are collected from remand and transit prisons over a wide area. It is for good reason that prisoners refer to the transportation as the estafeta, or relay-race. To all intents and purpose, prisoners disappear into a black hole during transportation, re-emerging only when they arrive at their destination colony.”
Some are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, while organizations like Amnesty International are calling on people to take action and send a message in protest to the Prosecutor General and Ambassador.
UCSJ continues to condemn the treatment of these women by the Russian government.