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Pussy Riot sent to prison camps

Pussy Riot members have been moved from their Moscow prison to isolated prison camps in central Russia. Some have interpreted their relocation as an attempt by the authorities to dim the media spotlight on the band.

Two members of the punk band Pussy Riot have been sent to isolated Russian prison colonies to serve their sentences for mocking President Vladimir Putin in a cathedral, their defense lawyer said on Monday.

"Nadya Tolokonnikova has been sent to Mordovia, and Maria Alyokhina to Perm," lawyer Violetta Volkova told the AFP news agency.

"They were convoyed on Saturday," Volkova said, adding that their relatives had found out about the female inmates' relocation after parcels for the women that the relatives sent to the Moscow prison, where they had been held since March, were rejected.

A sprawling network of infamously harsh prison camps are located in the Perm region and Mordovia, in central Russia. In Perm, which is around 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from Moscow, temperatures can drop as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit). The region was the location of labor camps during the Stalin era. Mordovia also hosts prison camps that date back to the Stalin era.

The decision to move the women to the distant camps is a part of a deliberate strategy to keep the women out of the public eye, according to activists.

"Evidently the women have been sent to distant colonies so it's harder for the Pussy Riot members to contact relatives and lawyers, and also it's harder for the public to check on their fate," the head of the group For Human Rights, Lev Ponomaryov, told Moscow Echo.

Back in August, Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and their other bandmate Yekaterina Samutsevich were jailed for two years after bursting into Moscow's main cathedral and calling on the Virgin Mary to rid their country of President Putin. Earlier in October, a Russian court upheld prison camp sentences against Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina but ordered third member Samutsevich to be released. Some observers have interpreted the latter move as a deliberate attempt to divide the band.

sej/pfd (Reuters, AFP)