Priests to visit detention center where Pussy Riot members are held

Orthodox priests will visit detention facility No. 6 in Moscow's Pechatniki district, where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, members of the Pussy Riot feminist punk band, are being held.

The visit will take place on Oct. 14, when the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Intercession of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), as part of a charity day of mercy and compassion with all prisoners the church annually holds at all Moscow penitentiaries this day, the Orthodox Church's Synodal Department for Prison Services told Interfax on Friday.

"Priests are attached to all detention centers of Moscow. They regularly visit convicts, talk with them, and conduct services at chapels at these detention centers," it said.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have been sentenced to two years in prison each for a performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, which was qualified as disorderly conduct. It was reported on Thursday that the detention center where they are being held refused to grant their request that they be left serving their sentences there, and so they will be sent to a correctional facility in the region where they live, i.e. the Moscow area. However, if the Federal Corrections Service cannot find vacant places for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina there, they can be sent to any general-security penitentiary in Russia.

The Synodal Department said the women themselves did not ask to be visited by a priest.

"As for us, we do not force anyone to become churchgoers," it said.

The Orthodox Church has observed the above-mentioned charity action since 2004, when it set up a commission for services at Moscow penitentiaries.

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