Russian paper says Pussy Riot activist was to receive sensitive documents | News | DW | 19.09.2018
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Russian paper says Pussy Riot activist was to receive sensitive documents

New details have emerged in the case of Kremlin critic Pyotr Verzilov, now in intensive care in Berlin. A Russian newspaper says he was to receive highly sensitive documents on the day he was allegedly poisoned.

According to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Pyotr Verzilov was to receive a final report from foreign experts last Thursday, containing information on the murder of Russian journalists in the Central African Republic at the end of July. That same day, he was admitted to a Moscow clinic with symptoms of poisoning. He has been in treatment at the Charite Hospital in Berlin since Sunday.

Was Verzilov involved in an explosive investigation?

According to Novaya Gazeta, Verzilov was friends with one of the journalists murdered in the Central African Republic, Alexander Rastorguev. The activist had reportedly wanted to join the journalists, who were on an investigative reporting trip, and had already bought plane tickets.

But Verzilov changed his mind, deciding to stay in Russia to take part in a protest during the World Cup. In the final match between France and Croatia in Moscow, Verzilov ran out onto the pitch in a Soviet police uniform to call for the release of political prisoners in Russia.

A man chases Pussy Riot activists as they storm the pitch in the World Cup final

Verzilov was among the Pussy Riot activists who stormed the pitch during the World Cup final

Other sources have not yet confirmed the Novaya Gazeta report. It is supported by the fact that Verzilov expressed his dismay at the murder of Russian journalists in the Central African Republic on Twitter at the end of July.

He described Rastorguev as "one of the country's best documentary directors" and affectionately referred to him as "Sasha." 

But some people are casting doubt on the Novaya Gazeta report, saying it's unlikely that Verzilov would have accompanied the journalists to the Central African Republic. While all three murder victims were experienced war reporters, Verzilov has made a name for himself as an artist and political provocateur.

Research on Russian mercenaries

According to media reports, Rastorguev and the other two journalists, Kirill Radchenko and Orkhan Dzhemal, had been investigating Russian mercenaries in central Africa who may have connections with politics. The journalists were in a rental car when they were stopped and killed. The driver of the vehicle survived unharmed. The exact reasons for the killings remain unclear to this day.

Their reporting trip had been commissioned for a project that has since been completed. It was financed by former oil billionaire and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

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