Skip to main content

Pyotr Verzilov during an interview in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 7, 2018

Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press

Punk protest group Pussy Riot says the life of Pyotr Verzilov, one of its members and a Russian-Canadian dual citizen, is in danger and they believe he has been poisoned.

Russian news reports on Wednesday said Mr. Verzilov, who is also the publisher of an alternative news website, is in hospital in grave condition. Mr. Verzilov spent years in Toronto as a teenager and recently made headlines when he was one of four activists to run onto the field at the FIFA World Cup final.

Veronika Nikulshina, a fellow Pussy Riot member, said Mr. Verzilov’s symptoms included losing his eyesight and ability to speak. She said he was being treated in the toxicology unit at a Moscow hospital. The band in a tweet described Mr. Verzilov as its friend, brother and comrade.

Story continues below advertisement

“We think that he was poisoned,” the group said in the tweet.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday evening that Canadian diplomats are looking into the reports.

“We are looking into that issue,” the minister told reporters, adding that human rights are important to Canadians and the Canadian government.

Canada, Britain, France, Germany and the United States last week called on Russia to disclose its nerve-agent program. The countries said they backed Britain’s conclusion that Russian officers were behind an attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter using the nerve agent Novichok after the country charged two Russians in absentia.

Ms. Nikulshina, who is Mr. Verzilov’s partner, told Russian publication Meduza that Mr. Verzilov woke from a nap on Tuesday evening and began losing his sight.

“First, it was his vision, then his ability to speak and then his ability to walk,” she said.

After paramedics arrived, Mr. Verzilov began convulsing.

Story continues below advertisement

“He fell into such a half-asleep, half-unconscious state that he stopped responding to me and didn’t even recognize me any more,” she said.

Mr. Verzilov spoke with The Globe and Mail in 2013, as his then-wife Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was serving time in jail over a Pussy Riot performance at a Moscow cathedral. During the performance, members of the band climbed on the altar and shouted a song calling for the Virgin Mary to help rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Verzilov lived in Toronto’s High Park neighbourhood during part of his high-school years. He later attended Moscow State University, where he and Ms. Tolokonnikova were among the founders of a shock-art collective known as Voina, the Russian word for “war.” The group achieved notoriety with stunts that included videotaping a five-couple orgy inside a biology museum (to mock a government call for Russians to have more babies).

Ms. Tolokonnikova got permanent-resident status in Canada shortly before her arrest and prosecutors held up her residency card and Ontario health card as proof of a foreign plot to stir unrest in Russia.

Mr. Verzilov’s own Canadian passport was also repeatedly mentioned by the judge.

Mr. Verzilov in the interview said he and Ms. Tolokonnikova were fond of Canada and would visit again in the future, but their future and their fight was in Russia.

Story continues below advertisement

With a report from the Associated Press

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter