Poisoned Pussy Riot activist: The Kremlin was sending a ′warning sign′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.09.2018
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Poisoned Pussy Riot activist: The Kremlin was sending a 'warning sign'

Russian activist Pyotr Verzilov is under police protection in Berlin after suffering an apparent poisoning attack in Moscow. Speaking to DW, Verzilov says he had been targeted over his investigative work.

DW: How do you feel right now?

Pyotr Verzilov: Compared with last week, when I was still completely unconscious and had no understanding what was happening, there has obviously been a huge leap toward feeling better. I am still not completely well. I probably would not run a marathon or something like that. I still have problems with my eyesight — very weird problems that basically don't allow me to read with glasses or focus my eyes. So yes, some things are still there.

But, essentially, this nerve agent — as everyone who is thinking about it has speculated — most likely had a very strong short-term effect and then it basically died out. And this is what we saw in my condition.

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'Russia needs courageous people who are not afraid of anything'

Your life is obviously in danger. Are you afraid of returning to Russia?

No, I am definitely not afraid. I feel that Russia needs the greatest people — we are not afraid of anything. If in Berlin it might make sense to walk with bodyguards, in Moscow it doesn't make any sense because the people who want to do something bad to you, they can still do it. So if you are involved in opposition politics in Russia you just have to be ready for any course of action.

Are you under police protection right now?

Yes. If I go out or meet someone outside they will escort me.

What do you believe was the main reason for your poisoning?

I believe the main reason was to give a warning sign that we should not dive too much into uncovering what has happened in Africa [Editor's note: Three Russian journalists were killed under unclear circumstances  while working in the Central African Republic in July] and the agency that knows how to work with poisons ... it's kind of their language now. So I believe the African situation is more or less the main reason.

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Pussy Riot activist Versilov on the way to recovery

Not the run on the pitch during the recent World Cup final in Moscow?

It could be, but at the same time we all saw how the Moscow police were struggling over the past two months to write some sort of a new protocol in order for us to get another 15, 30 days in jail, and they were not able to do that. Because the local court in Moscow just kept sending the papers back, saying [they] were not going to work with this.

You haven't published an investigation of the Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic. You said there is new information about this incident. When do you want to publish your findings?

This really depends on what we will be doing at stage two [of the investigation], and if we will be doing stage two at all because the publication of some sort of information right now might make the investigation harder.

Would you like to stay in Berlin? With all the creative freedom here you can do a lot of artistic activism...

Artistic activism is particularly important in Russia, because of the specifics of our political and social reality. Here (in Germany) there are billions of ways to get involved in politics, to change something, to express yourself artistically. Our activism comes from the lack of possibilities for self-expression — in the West there are a lot of them.

Pyotr Verzilov is an activist with the Russian protest group Pussy Riot. He fell ill in Moscow two weeks ago and was flown to Germany for urgent treatment. He was released from a hospital in Berlin on Wednesday.

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