Russian Punk Band Members Sent to Prison Camps

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October 22, 2012

Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been sent to prison camps, where they will presumably serve the remainder of their two-year sentences, Reuters has reported.

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.

Three band members were originally sentenced, but one was subsequently freed upon appeal.

The other two members also appealed, but lost.

The women's lawyers said they had tried to argue that 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.

It is unclear where exactly the Russian government sent the two women. Reuters reported two possible locations, one 500 km east of Moscow, the other 1,100 km east.

The convictions in August sparked protests across the world against what was perceived as an unjust crackdown on freedom of speech.