Pussy Riot's Pyotr Verzilov, Allegedly Poisoned, Is Flown To Germany For Treatment

Sep 17, 2018
Originally published on September 17, 2018 8:45 am

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

A member of Russia's Pussy Riot protest group has been flown to Berlin for treatment after a suspected poisoning in Moscow.

Pyotr Verzilov, the group's unofficial spokesman, reportedly fell ill after a court hearing on Tuesday and was taken to a hospital in serious condition after experiencing hallucinations.

Veronika Nikulshina, Verzilov's partner, told the Russian news portal Meduza that he lost his vision and his ability to speak and could not move.

After Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Verzilov's blood had tested for "no drugs other than the ones the doctor gave him," Nikulshina called the claim "absurd nonsense," according to Meduza.

"This is absolutely poisoning. Poisoning by anticholinergic drugs. It's something like the atropine Cyclopentolate — what's found in medicines. But the issue here is the large dosage," Nikulshina told Meduza.

Elena Verzilova, Verzilov's mother, told Meduza "these aren't the kind of drugs that are easy to remove [from his system]."

Verzilov publishes the independent Russian news outlet Mediazona, which was founded by his ex-wife, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

According to Meduza, Verzilov has been "a prominent figure in Russia's anti-Kremlin opposition movement since the late 2000s, when he performed in the controversial 'Voina' artist-activist group alongside ... Tolokonnikova."

Verizlov arrived in Germany on a flight chartered by the Cinema for Peace Foundation, an organization that has supported the band's activism in the past, according to The Telegraph.

The Telegraph writes:

"On arrival, he was met by Pussy Riot's [Tolokonnikova], ... who told a German newspaper the poisoning may have been an attempt to kill him.

"I'm working on the principle that he was the victim of either an act of intimidation or attempted murder," she told the Sunday edition of Bild."

Video and photographs published by Bild show Verzilov on a stretcher.

Pussy Riot has become famous for its daring public protests against President Vladimir Putin. Several of its members have spent time in Russia jails in connection with the group's anti-Kremlin activism.

In July, Verzilov and three other members of Pussy Riot rushed the field dressed as police during a World Cup soccer match between France and Croatia. As NPR's Andrew Flanagan reported last week, "The four were denied access to a lawyer ahead of their hearing, where they were sentenced to 15 days of "administrative arrest" and banned from sports events for three years."

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