“Fainted,” “choked on the stairs,” “sparks from the pain.” Imprisoned journalist Ponomarenko talks about her conditions of confinement in Penal Colony No. 6
Maria Ponomarenko. Photo: The women’s public-political movement Soft Power

7 December 2023

Source: Spektr.press

Journalists from RusNews have published details about the confinement of journalist Maria Ponomarenko, who was arrested for “false information about the Russian army” and who is in Shipunovo Penal Colony No. 6.

According to the information in Ponomarenko’s letter, which was transmitted from Barnaul Remand Prison No. 1:

“Two guys handled my forcible arrest, twisting my arms behind my back. The pain made me see sparks (my right shoulder has yet to recover completely). They dragged me that way barefoot halfway across the prison, down the street, and across the parade ground. The last thing I remember is them choking me on the staircase, and after that my brain switched off. When I came to I was outside and my arms were free, and I thought there had been no commission [Maria had been summoned to appear before a commission of the prison authorities after she had declared a hunger strike in protest at her treatment and had been placed in a punishment cell – ed.]. According to associates, I took my steps at the commission standing barefoot on the insteps of the booted inspectors, who held me by the arms, and I spat up on the rug. That same day, after everything, I fainted and bumped my forehead,” the publication’s journalists quote Ponomarenko as saying.

It’s noted that these were consequences organized by penal colony employees after Ponomarenko declared a hunger strike on 11 October, demanding an end to the impunity. As the journalists write, because as Maria said, “According to associates, I took my steps at the commission standing barefoot on the insteps of the booted inspectors, who held me by the arms, and I spat up on the rug,” a second criminal case was opened against her, under Article 321, pt. 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (infliction of harm not injurious to health). Moreover, according to Ponomarenko, back in the Krasnoyarsk Penal Colony No. 22, they tried to pin her with state treason or justification of terrorism.

After what happened, Maria was sent for psychiatric expert analysis. It has been confirmed that they started injecting her with drugs there. A week later, they transferred her to Barnaul Remand Prison No. 1.

Maria says: “Never once did my lawyer think to call the clinic, while knowing about last year’s thrashing.”

Now she has expressed a desire to replace her lawyer, Dmitry Shitov, with another, Aleksandra Sadkovskaya, who did get Maria transferred from the clinic back to the remand centre.

On 15 February, the Lenin district court of Barnaul sentenced Ponomarenko to six years’ incarceration (the prosecution requested nine). She was also banned from engaging in journalism for five years.

“What’s going on in thus country anyway?” Ponomarenko said in her final statement. “If it’s a war, call it by its name and then institute military censorship. On what grounds are they applying military censorship to me?”

In early October, Ponomarenko was sent to a punishment cell right away for two stretches—10 and 15 days. After she fainted, they wrote in the report that Ponomarenko had been “lying down during daytime.”

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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