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Pussy riot member ends hunger strike against Russian prison conditions

A member of the punk rock band Pussy Riot has ended a hunger strike to protest prison conditions. In an open letter announcing the strike last week, she had written that inmates at her prison worked 17-hour days.

On Tuesday, the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service announced via state media that the imprisoned member of the punk band Pussy Riot had ended her hunger strike nine days after it began, and reported her health as stable. An opposition leader who said he had spoken with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova also wrote on the micro-blogging website Twitter that she would end the strike after being placed on an intravenous drip by a prison doctor.

"Today at 11 a.m. (0700 UTC), convict Nadezhda Tolokonnikova stopped the hunger strike and started consuming food," prison authorities announced in a statement.

In her open letter announcing the prison strike last week, Tolokonnikova had accused the prison's deputy warden, whom she called a self-confessed Stalinist, of making death threats toward her. Tolokonnikova also wrote that the prison administration had attempted to pit other prisoners against her, noting that they even punished a woman for drinking tea with her.

'Only possible way'

In her letter, Tolokonnikova wrote that administrators would often beat prisoners and deny them food, water and the use of toilets. In one case, she wrote, administrators forced several prisoners to undress and sew naked to improve their performance in the workshop.

"This is an extreme measure but I am absolutely confident that this is the only possible way for me out of this situation," Tolokonnikova wrote in the lengthy letter announcing her hunger strike. "I demand that we be treated as people and not slaves."

In August 2012, the 23-year-old mother received a two-year sentence after being convicted of "hooliganism" after Pussy Riot delivered a "punk prayer," or musical protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral. Many observers have accused the authorities of deliberately sending Tolokonnikova to the Russian region of Mordovia to serve her sentence, in an effort to break her will. The region is reportely known for its Soviet-era network of gulag prison camps.

"The Mordovia inmates are afraid of their own shadows," she wrote, noting that any attempts to complain have led to more abuse.

mkg/pfd (AFP, AP)