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Court convicts one of Pussy Riot’s former jailers of using illegal prison labor, sentences him to probation

Source: Meduza

A court in Russia’s Mordovia Republic has sentenced Yuri Kupriyanov to two years’ probation for using forced prison labor when he served as warden of the region’s Number 14 Correctional Colony. Convicted of abusing his authority, Kupriyanov is also prohibited from working again in Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service for two years. 

Investigators determined that Kupriyanov recruited inmates without their voluntary consent for overtime sewing work in November and December 2018. Some of the prisoners worked 15-hour shifts, six days a week, sometimes toiling through the night. Officials named 210 women as victims in the case. Most of these people are still there, serving out their sentences. 

In 2013, Pussy Riot frontwoman Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was initially imprisoned at Mordovia’s Number 14 Correctional Colony as punishment for her group’s infamous “punk prayer” in Moscow. As an inmate, she circulated an open letter describing conditions at the compound, including allegations of forced labor. In protest, Tolokonnikova launched a hunger strike that resulted in her transfer to another prison’s hospital. She did not return to the correctional colony again before she was freed in December 2013.

When Tolokonnikova was an inmate at Number 14, Kupriyanov was the prison’s deputy warden. By 2018, when federal officials launched a criminal investigation into forced labor at the facility, he had been promoted to warden. As soon as the case was opened, however, Russia’s Penitentiary Service promptly fired Kupriyanov.