Verzilov said the acting head of the prison had described Tolokonnikova’s condition as “horrible” but had given no further details. He also said prison officials would not show him documents about her transfer to hospital or allow her lawyers to visit. The administration of the prison could not immediately be reached for comment, and prison service employees in the remote Mordovia region declined to comment. Tolokonnikova, 23, announced on Monday that she was starting a hunger strike to protest against “slave labor” at Corrective Colony No. 14, where she is serving her sentence, and that she had received a death threat from a senior prison official. She said inmates were forced to work up to 17 hours a day, deprived of sleep and subjected to collective punishment and violence from senior inmates enforcing order in a system reminiscent of the Soviet-era Gulag forced labor camps. Prison authorities dismissed her accusations that the jail is run in violation of Russian law and human rights standards. ABUSE CLAIM Earlier on Friday, Verzilov gave out a statement from Tolokonnikova in which she said prison guards had taken drinking water away from her isolation cell and one had roughly grabbed her and held her in place by her shoulders. The Mordovia branch of the prison service said the drinking water had been replaced by warm boiled water in accordance with doctor’s orders and that Tolokonnikova had refused to let medics check her body for bruises. Tolokonnikova and two other band members were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for a February 2012 protest in which they burst into Christ the Saviour Cathedral and prayed to the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin. Kremlin critics say their trial was part of a crackdown on dissent since Putin started a third term at the Kremlin in May 2012. Pussy Riot and other Kremlin critics accuse Putin of fostering too close ties with the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church and discriminating against sexual minorities as part of the wider crackdown. Tolokonnikova is due for release in March. Another jailed Putin critic, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, praised her on Friday for speaking out about prison conditions and said she should not lose sight of her imminent freedom. “I know that you’ve got family and friends waiting for you on the outside.

Russia minister expects a sputtering economy

Sent! A link has been sent to your friend’s email address. Join the Nation’s Conversation To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs Russia, Belarus hold joint war games AP 1:21 p.m. EDT September 26, 2013 Story Highlights Massive joint military exercise involved more than 22,000 troops Russia and Belarus are allies and have close ties Thursday’s joint exercise was their biggest so far SHARE 1 CONNECT 17 TWEET COMMENTEMAILMORE MINSK, Belarus (AP) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart have watched a massive joint military exercise of the two ex-Soviet neighbors that involved more than 22,000 troops. The West 2013 exercise conducted Thursday near the city of Grodno in western Belarus and in Russia’s westernmost Kaliningrad region also involved more than 500 armored vehicles and about 90 aircraft along with ships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Russia and Belarus are allies and have close economic, political and military ties. Russia has several military facilities in Belarus, and the two nations operate a joint air defense system. The two armies have regularly conducted joint maneuvers, Thursday’s exercise being the biggest so far. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attended the exercise along with his nine-year old son, who donned full combat fatigues. Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. USA NOW

28, 2013 at 2:41 PM SOCHI, Russia, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Saturday economic growth has been flat and there are “no visible signs of change for the better.” The Russian economy expanded 1.5 percent in the first eight months of the year compared to the same period in 2012, but growth was flat month-to-month on a seasonally adjusted basis, RIA Novosti reported. At an international investment conference in Sochi, in southern Russia, Ulyukayev said he expected the unemployment rate to grow from the current 5 percent to 6 percent in 2014. Annual inflation in September held steady at 6.2 percent. Ulyukayev said it was expected to come in at 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent in October. He said August was “worse than July.” “There are no visible signs of change for the better,” he said. Ulyukayev said Russia will use its membership in the World Trade Organization to aggressively protect domestic producers. Russia became the 156th member of the WTO in August 2012. Ulyukayev said Russia can use the international organization as “an instrument to protect the interest of our producers and exporters.” He said there are about 70 restrictive policies Russia could target through the WTO that would assist Russian companies. “We are working to have them lifted. Last year, 16 such measures were lifted and another five in the first half of this year,” he said. 2013 United Press International, Inc.

Russia: clerics warn of unrest over Quran translation ban

Russia in New Move on Islam Study

If the ruling is acted on, the cleric warned: There will be unrest not only in Russia but all over the world, we are talking about the destruction of the Koran. In the letter to Putin, the council drew a parallel with violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan over the actions of an American pastor, Terry Jones, who threatened to burn the Koran on September 11, 2010. Is it necessary to discuss how the destruction of books, especially sacred religious books, has been received in Russia in the past? it said. We recall how the burning of just a few copies of the Holy Koran by a crazy American pastor elicited a firm protest not just from Russian Muslims but from our entire society, in solidarity with the stormy and longlasting anger of the global Muslim community and all people of goodwill, it said. A lawyer representing the texts author, Azeri theologian Elmir Kuliyev, said he will appeal the ruling, which calls for the text to be banned and copies of it destroyed. This is pure idiocy. Some local prosecutor sent this material to a local court and they together decided to ban a holy book, lawyer Murat Musayev, who has one month to appeal the ruling, told Reuters. On the one hand there is freedom of religion in Russia, on the other they are banning fundamental religious texts. Experts say the more than decade-old translation by Kuliyev is a respected scholarly work, one of four translations of the Koran into Russian. This is one step away from banning the Koran, said Akhmed Yarlikapov, an expert on Islam with the Russian Academy of Sciences. This is a very high quality translation, he said. The banning of Kuliyevs translation is utterly unprofessional, you could ban the Bible just as easily because it also has passages that talk about the spilling of blood. BLACKLIST Putin has championed the dominant Russian Orthodox Church as a moral compass but has also called for a multicultural Russian identity and emphasized the need to avoid religious strife in a country with a Muslim minority estimated at about 15 percent. The government is fighting against a persistent Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, spawned by separatist wars in Chechnya, and tension between ethnic Russians and Muslim minorities have led to outbursts of violence across the country. Since Russias anti-extremism law was passed in 2002, with the purpose of curbing potential militant threats, over 2,000 publications have been placed on a blacklist posted on the Justice Ministrys website.