Pussy Riot-linked activist hospitalized for possible poisoning | News | DW | 13.09.2018
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Pussy Riot-linked activist hospitalized for possible poisoning

Russian activist Pyotr Verzilov has been rushed to a hospital in Moscow after suddenly losing the ability to see and speak, according to Russian media. Verzilov crashed the World Cup final with Pussy Riot members.

Kremlin critic Pyotr Verzilov is receiving treatment at the toxicology unit of a hospital in Moscow after his health unexpectedly deteriorated, Russian media reported.

The media outlets cited Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina, who was reportedly with Verzilov as his condition deteriorated.

Verzilov is closely linked to the anti-Kremlin group and married to another member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. He holds both Russian and Canadian passports.

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He started complaining that he was losing his eyesight on Tuesday evening, after taking a two-hour nap at his home,  said Nikulshina.

"First it was his eyesight, then his ability to talk, then to walk properly," Nikulshina told the Russian Meduza website.

Russland Pussy Riot - Aktivisten wenige Sekunden nach Haftentlassung festgenommen (Reuters/M. Shemetov)

Pussy Riot member Nikulshina leaving a detention center in Moscow in July 2018

'Very serious condition'

"When the ambulance arrived, he was just answering all of the questions by saying 'no, I haven't eaten anything, I haven't taken any substances'," according to Nikulshina.

During the ride to the hospital, Verzilov reportedly started suffering convulsions. He was admitted to the ICU unit and later taken to the toxicology department. The doctors reportedly refused to tell Nikulshina whether or not he had been poisoned.

His wife, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, tweeted on Wednesday that Verzilov was in "very serious condition" and "possibly poisoned."

Read more: Pussy Riot - politics instead of punk

Wearing police uniforms, Pussy Riot members invaded the pitch at the final game between Croatia and France on July 15, 2018 (picture-alliance/SvenSimon/E. Kremser)

Wearing police uniforms, Verizilov and three Pussy Riot members invaded the pitch during the World Cup final in Moscow

Interrupting the World Cup finals

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was concerned about Verzilov's fate, linking it with the allegations of poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

"We are certainly taking this very seriously," he said, "but it is too early to draw any conclusions about what has happened or how it happened."

The Moscow-born Verzilov spent part of his school years in Toronto between 1999 and 2003, where he obtained a Canadian passport. He then returned to Moscow. He and Tolokonnikova met at the university and became members of a performance group called Voina, and later cooperated on the actions launched by the Pussy Riot. Verzilov is also one of the founders of the government-critic Mediazona website.

In July 2018, Verzilov briefly invaded the pitch during the football World Cup final in Moscow alongside Nikulshina and two other Pussy Riot members. The group said the stunt was aimed to draw attention to human right abuses in Russia. They were convicted to 15 days in prison.

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