Pussy Riot protester in single cell after tensions with inmates

Jailed Pussy Riot punk protester Maria Alyokhina has been moved to a single cell at her own request because of tensions with fellow prisoners, Russia's federal penitentiary service said on Friday.

Alyokhina, 24, is serving a two-year sentence for carrying out a raucous protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedral. Activists said her trial, alongside two other band-mates, was part of a crackdown on dissent.

"Some tensions arose in relationships and, apparently, to prevent this situation from escalating, she decided to submit a request to the prison leadership and they moved her to a one-person cell," a prison service spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman dismissed Russian media reports that Alyokhina had been caught up in religious arguments with fellow prisoners.

Pussy Riot's protest offended many members of Russia's Orthodox Church. The spokeswoman said she could not comment on a report on the tabloid-style Life News website that Alyokhina had received violent threats from cell mates at the Ural Mountains prison about 1,150 km (715 miles) northeast of Moscow.

Alyokhina and her two band mates and were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for their "punk prayer", which the dominant Russian Orthodox Church has cast as part of a concerted attack on the church and the faithful. The women said the protest, in which they burst into Christ the Saviour Cathedral and called on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin, was not motivated by hatred and was meant to mock the church leadership's support for the longtime leader.

Putin, a former KGB officer who has cultivated close ties with the church over 13 years in power, has rejected criticism from the United States and European leaders who called the two-year sentences disproportionate.

Alyokhina, who has a young son, argued with the judge and cross-examined witnesses during her trial. Her band mate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, is serving her sentence in a different prison. Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was freed last month when a court suspended her sentence on appeal.

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