Anti-Kremlin activist doing better in German hospital: fellow activist

FILE PHOTO: Member of Russia's anti-Kremlin Voina art group Verzilov attends a funeral ceremony for Russian TV journalist Rastorguyev in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Member of Russia’s anti-Kremlin Voina art group Pyotr Verzilov attends a funeral ceremony for Alexander Rastorguyev, one of three Russian TV journalists killed in Central African Republic, in Moscow, Russia August 7, 2018. Picture taken August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

September 16, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) – An anti-Kremlin activist lost his sight, hearing and ability to walk in a suspected poisoning last week but is doing better since he arrived in Berlin for treatment, according to a fellow member of the Pussy Riot band and a newspaper.

Pyotr Verzilov was flown to Berlin on a special medical transport plane late on Saturday, German newspaper Bild. It published a photograph of Verzilov on a stretcher at the airport.

A member of the protest band with whom Verzilov collaborated told Bild she believe he was poisoned.

“He’s better. Everything is okay,” another band member, Veronika Nikulshina, told Reuters from Verzilov’s hospital room. “The doctors here are great.” She made no further comment.

No comment was immediately available from the Charite hospital in Berlin, the largest university hospital in Europe, where Verzilov is believed to be receiving treatment.

Bild on Saturday quoted family members as saying he had lost his sight, his ability to speak and his ability to walk.

“I believe that he was poisoned intentionally, and that it was an attempt to intimidate him or kill him,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, his wife and fellow Pussy Riot member, told the newspaper at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport, as she awaited his arrival.

Verzilov, 30, staged a brief pitch invasion during the soccer World Cup final in Moscow in July along with three women affiliated with the anti-Kremlin punk band. He is the publisher of Mediazona, a Russian online news outlet which focuses on human rights violations inside Russia’s penal system.

Pussy Riot came to prominence in 2012 when its members were jailed for staging a protest against Putin in a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Moscow. The group has since become a symbol of anti-Kremlin protest action.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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