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IK-2 is commonly referred to as the “land of prisons,” with the freezing, swampy area of “roughly two dozen massive jails” located 250 miles southeast of Moscow. Conditions at the penal colony are infamous for being heavily guarded, explicitly racist, homophobic, and lacking in healthcare.
Musician Nadya Tolokonnikova, founder of Russian feminist protest and performance art group Pussy Riot, spent two years in Mordovia’s IK-2 following a 2012 arrest and spoke with MSNBC on (Nov. 22) about her time at IK-2 and what Griner may experience.
The Moscow-based activist detailed her detainment as hell on earth, where “beatings and torture” are commonplace. Tolokonnikova also shed light on its inhumane working conditions, referring to them as “slave-like,” with the detainee potentially working 16-17 hour days. “It’s one of the harshest colonies. It is literally the harshest colony in the whole Russian prison system.
“A lot of prisoners just cannot stand it, and some of them decide to commit suicide,” the feminist added. “And, let’s say, you’re being tortured and go to prison doctors to document the fact that you’ve been tortured, obviously, they do not see anything and are not witnesses of your torture.”
Later in the interview, Tolokonnikova expressed that if Griner refused to do hard labor, she would be sent to solitary confinement, which is better than the penal colony’s conditions.
In July, the New York Times reported President Joe Biden’s administration offered to release convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, another U.S. citizen in Russian custody. At the time of her initial sentencing in August, President Joe Biden referred to the basketball player’s arrest as Russia’s “wrongful detainment” of Griner.
The athlete’s 9-year sentence was upheld after she lost her appeal in Russian court Oct. 25. The White House issued a statement in the aftermath.
“We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today,” the statement explained.
“President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately. In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring home Brittney as well as to support and advocate for other Americans detained in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan.”
I wish I could say I'm surprised by the lack of sympathy–and outright anger–directed at Brittney Griner. She committed a minor crime and is in a Russian penal colony. But because she's not White or male or straight, lots of people don't care or are happy. Sad.
— John Feinstein (@JFeinsteinBooks) November 11, 2022