TWO members of the punk band Pussy Riot have been taken to remote Russian prison camps after a court upheld their two-year sentences for mocking President Vladimir Putin in a church, their lawyer says.
''Nadya Tolokonnikova has been sent to Mordovia and Maria Alyokhina to Perm,'' defence lawyer Violetta Volkova said.
The Perm region in the Urals mountains and Mordovia in central Russia host a vast network of prison camps dating back to the Soviet era and infamous for their tough conditions.
''They were convoyed on Saturday,'' Ms Volkova said, adding relatives had learnt of the move when their parcels for the women were rejected at the Moscow prison where they had been temporarily held.
Tolokonnikova's husband, activist Pyotr Verzilov, told the Moscow Echo radio station the women were not moved by train, as is usual, but ''were sent by air in special flights''.
''Of all the possible options, these are the cruellest prison camps,'' Pussy Riot's Twitter account noted.
The art group Voina [War], which is closely affiliated with Pussy Riot, tweeted that Mordovia was ''the worst prison hell there is''.
The Perm region, 1400 kilometres east of Moscow, where temperatures can fall as low as minus 50 degrees in winter, housed Stalin-era labour camps, one of which has been turned into a museum about the history of political repression.
Mordovia, about 640 kilometres south-east of Moscow, is a region dotted with lakes that is chiefly known for its prison camps dating back to the Stalin era.
The region now has 17 prison camps, the prison service says.
''Evidently, the women have been sent to distant colonies so it's harder for the Pussy Riot members to contact relatives and lawyers, and also it's harder for the public to check on their fate,'' said Lev Ponomaryov, the leader of the For Human Rights group.
A Russian appeals court this month upheld the prison camp sentences against Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina but unexpectedly ordered the release of bandmate Yekaterina Samutsevich, in what many observers believe was an attempt to split the tightly knit band.
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