Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV
'Jazz'

member station

NPR
Europe

Pussy Riot's Pyotr Verzilov, Allegedly Poisoned, Is Flown To Germany For Treatment

648648121_1559825161.jpg

Pyotr Verzilov, left, the unofficial spokesperson of the Russian activist group Pussy Riot, along with Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Nadya Tolokonnikova, founding members of the group.
Adam Berry, Getty Images

Pyotr Verzilov, left, the unofficial spokesperson of the Russian activist group Pussy Riot, along with Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Nadya Tolokonnikova, founding members of the group.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

A member of Russia's Pussy Riot protest group has been flown to Berlin for treatment after a suspected poisoning in Moscow.

Pyotr Verzilov, the group's unofficial spokesman, reportedly fell ill after a court hearing on Tuesday and was taken to a hospital in serious condition after experiencing hallucinations.

Veronika Nikulshina, Verzilov's partner, told the Russian news portal Meduza that he lost his vision and his ability to speak and could not move.

After Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Verzilov's blood had tested for "no drugs other than the ones the doctor gave him," Nikulshina called the claim "absurd nonsense," according to Meduza.

"This is absolutely poisoning. Poisoning by anticholinergic drugs. It's something like the atropine Cyclopentolate — what's found in medicines. But the issue here is the large dosage," Nikulshina told Meduza.

Support comes from

Elena Verzilova, Verzilov's mother, told Meduza "these aren't the kind of drugs that are easy to remove [from his system]."

Verzilov publishes the independent Russian news outlet Mediazona, which was founded by his ex-wife, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

According to Meduza, Verzilov has been "a prominent figure in Russia's anti-Kremlin opposition movement since the late 2000s, when he performed in the controversial 'Voina' artist-activist group alongside ... Tolokonnikova."

Verizlov arrived in Germany on a flight chartered by the Cinema for Peace Foundation, an organization that has supported the band's activism in the past, according to The Telegraph.

The Telegraph writes:

"On arrival, he was met by Pussy Riot's [Tolokonnikova], ... who told a German newspaper the poisoning may have been an attempt to kill him.

"I'm working on the principle that he was the victim of either an act of intimidation or attempted murder," she told the Sunday edition of Bild."

Video and photographs published by Bild show Verzilov on a stretcher.

Pussy Riot has become famous for its daring public protests against President Vladimir Putin. Several of its members have spent time in Russia jails in connection with the group's anti-Kremlin activism.

In July, Verzilov and three other members of Pussy Riot rushed the field dressed as police during a World Cup soccer match between France and Croatia. As NPR's Andrew Flanagan reported last week, "The four were denied access to a lawyer ahead of their hearing, where they were sentenced to 15 days of "administrative arrest" and banned from sports events for three years."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.