Pussy Riot's jailed band members sent to Russian prison colonies

Two jailed members of the female punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alekhina, left, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, sit in a glass-walled cage in a Moscow court, Oct. 10, 2012. Getty

MOSCOW A lawyer for the two jailed Pussy Riot band members says they have been transferred to prison colonies hundreds of miles from Moscow to serve their sentence.

Mark Feygin said Monday that Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were transferred during the weekend from the Moscow prison where they have been kept since March.

Feygin said prison authorities informed him that Alekhina had been sent to the Perm region in the Urals and Tolokonnikova to the central province of Mordovia. He could not confirm the information with his clients.

Alekhina, Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August for performing a protest prayer against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral in February, and given two-year sentences.

Samutsevich was released on appeal earlier this month, when a judge ruled that her sentence should be suspended because she was thrown out of the cathedral by guards before she could take part in the performance.

Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said at the time that, per the court's decision, Samutsevich may be "rehabilitated" outside of the prison system. But CBS News' Svetlana Berdnikova said the court will impose a number of restrictions on Samutsevich.

Dressed in neon-colored miniskirts and tights, with homemade balaclavas on their heads, the women performed a "punk prayer" asking the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Putin as he headed into a March election that would hand him a third term.

"We didn't mean to offend anyone," Alekhina said in court from inside a glass cage known colloquially as the "aquarium." She said they were protesting Putin and also the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy for openly supporting his rule.

"We went to the cathedral to express our protest against the joining of the political and spiritual elites," Alekhina said.

The case has been condemned in the U.S. and Europe, where it has been seen as an illustration of Putin's intensifying crackdown on dissent after his return to the presidency after four years as prime minister.

Putin, however, recently said the court ruled correctly because "It is impermissible to undermine our moral foundations, moral values, to try to destroy the country." Defense lawyers said Putin's remarks amounted to pressure on the appeals court.

"I want a court ruling on President Putin on the inadmissibility of his meddling" in the court case, Feygin said.

The church has said it would ask for clemency for the three women if they repented. But the defendants said that they could not repent because they harbored no religious hatred and demanded that the conviction be overturned.

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