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Pussy Riot says activist hospitalised, 'poisoned'
In this file photo taken on July 31, 2018 Member of the Pussy Riot punk group Pyotr Verzilov (L) gestures as he walks with police during a court hearing at a courthouse in Moscow, as members of the Russian protest-art group are accused of disturbing public order after invading the pitch during the World Cup final in Moscow. An activist from the Russian protest group Pussy Riot who staged a pitch invasion during the World Cup has been hospitalised with suspected poisoning, members of the punk collective said on September 13, 2018. Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP.


MOSCOW (AFP).- An activist from Russian protest group Pussy Riot who staged a pitch invasion during the 2018 football World Cup final in Moscow has been hospitalised with suspected poisoning, members of the punk collective said Thursday.

Pyotr Verzilov -- whom Ottawa says is a Canadian national -- was admitted to hospital following a court hearing on Tuesday, his girlfriend Veronika Nikulshina, also a Pussy Riot member, told local media.

"His eyesight was going... First we dismissed it as fatigue but then it got worse and he lost the power of speech," Nikulshina told Ekho Moskvy radio. "He didn't recognise me anymore, he didn't react to requests.

She added, pending the results of medical tests, "I am not ruling out the possibility that it could be connected to outside interference."

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alluding to an alleged attempt by Kremlin agents to kill a turncoat spy in Britain, said this situation "is of concern obviously given (the) actions of recent months by the Russians in the UK."

"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."

"We just know that there is a Canadian who is in hospital that we need to make sure we are getting support to."

Verzilov was transferred on Thursday afternoon to Moscow's Sklifosovsky trauma hospital which has an intensive care unit for poisoning cases.

A phone operator at the hospital confirmed to AFP he was in the unit in a "serious condition".

Nikulshina said her partner, who also works at the independent news site Mediazona, had not taken drugs.

Mediazona focuses on the Russian prison system.

Nikulshina and Verzilov served 15-day jail sentences with two other Pussy Riot members for running onto the pitch during the July 15 World Cup final in a protest they said was aimed at highlighting abuses by Russian police.

He was present in court on Tuesday when two other Pussy Riot members, including Nikulshina, were sentenced on charges of disobeying a police officer, Russian media reported.

Nikulshina received a sentence of two days in jail but was released on time served.

"Our friend, brother, comrade Petr (Pyotr) Verzilov is in reanimation (intensive care). His life is in danger. We think that he was poisoned," Pussy Riot wrote on its official Twitter account with a link to an article about the hospitalisation.

Pussy Riot drew international attention in 2012 when it staged a protest in a Moscow church. Two members served jail terms, while another was given a suspended sentence.


© Agence France-Presse





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