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Russian Woman Jailed For High Treason Begins Hunger Strike Over Treatment, Lawyer Says

Antonina Zimina is serving a sentence of 12 1/2 years.
Antonina Zimina is serving a sentence of 12 1/2 years.

KALININGRAD, Russia -- A Russian woman serving a prison sentence on high treason charges has started a hunger strike to protest against being put in solitary confinement for complaining about beatings, her lawyer says.

Antonina Zimina's lawyer told RFE/RL on March 26 that her client has been on hunger strike for four days in a detention center in Kaliningrad, the capital of Russia's far western exclave of the same name.

In late December 2020, Zimina and her husband, Konstantin Antonets, were found guilty of spying for Latvia.

Antonets was handed a 12 1/2-year prison sentence. The couple has denied any wrongdoing ever since they were first arrested in July 2018.

Zimina’s lawyer, Maria Bontsler, said she was sent to seven days of solitary confinement on March 22 for "covering the observation hole on the door of her cell from inside and refusing to sign a registry of cleaning shifts," a routine procedure for inmates who are required to clean the premises.

Zimina covered the observation hole while she was changing her clothes and refused to sign the registry because a guard who beat her in the past brought it for signing, according to Bontsler.

The lawyer added that the real reason behind Zimina’s placement in solitary confinement is most likely the complaints she voiced to officials of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) last week about her beatings by guards.

"The next day, she was called to the detention center's operative department and instructed to sign documents retracting her statements. Now they are threatening to sue her for libel," Bontsler said.

Zimina's father, Konstantin Zimin, told RFE/RL that he was not allowed to see his daughter when he came to the detention center on March 26.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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