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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the Pussy Riot members sentenced to two years in prison for "hooliganism," has announced that she is on a hunger strike to protest Russian prison conditions which, according to Tolokonnikova, sound not unlike the Soviet Gulag system. "I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves," she wrote in a letter obtained by The Guardian. And here's one of Tolokonnikova's examples of slave labor:

My brigade in the sewing shop works 16 to 17 hours a day. From 7.30am to 12.30am. At best, we get four hours of sleep a night. We have a day off once every month and a half. We work almost every Sunday. Prisoners submit petitions to work on weekends "out of [their] own desire". In actuality, there is, of course, no desire to speak of. These petitions are written on the orders of the administration and under pressure from the prisoners that help enforce it.

She goes on to describe horrors like being splashed with urine and feces when the plumbing breaks down, death threats from guards, and how guards don't care if the prisoners get sick—stuff that wouldn't be out of place in an Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn novel.

And that's a stiff punishment for criticizing The Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin—Tolokonnikova and two other members were arrested after performing at Moscow's Cathedral of Chris the Savior, an act that many would consider to be little more than an example of free speech.

Tolokonnikova's hunger strike and the international attention it is already attracting could help change the alleged conditions at her Mordovia prison. The Guardian explains that Maria Alyokhina, the other jailed member of Pussy riot, "went on hunger strike for 11 days against conditions in the prison where she is serving her sentence, in the Perm region" and authorities met her demands shortly after.

For now, however, officials are denying Tolokonnikova's claims. "A representative of the Mordovia prison system denied all of Tolokonnikova's allegations later on Monday, calling her claims of death threats "absurd" and stating that working days never last longer than eight hours," The Guardian reported. Tolokonnikova was sentenced in August of 2012, meaning she has around more year left on her sentence — and is scheduled to be released in March of 2014. 

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