Pussy Riot Activist Pyotr Verzilov Is In ‘Critical Condition’ After Suspected Poisoning

Pyotr Verzilov of the Pussy Riot
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Pyotr Verzilov, a member of the Russian punk band and activist group Pussy Riot, has been hospitalized and is in “critical condition” in what friends and family suspect to be a poisoning case, the group said on Twitter.

Verzilov has been in the intensive care unit at a Moscow hospital, where he has been receiving emergency care since Tuesday, according to The Telegraph. The group posted a message on its official Twitter account announcing the news, and band members have also talked to local media.

“Our friend, brother, comrade Petr Verzilov is in reanimation. His life is in danger. We think that he was poisoned,” reads the tweet posted late Wednesday.

Russia state news agency Tass reported that Maria Alyokhina, another Pussy Riot member, said Verzilov was in the toxicology unit and that his relatives had been told they could see him in the morning, according to CNN. The group’s members are known for obscuring their identities with colorful balaclava-style masks in their protests against the Russian government.

Pussy Riot members said the 30-year-old started to feel sick after a court hearing for Veronika Nikulshina, a fellow member of the protest group, according to The Telegraph. Nikulshina said his symptoms included losing his eyesight and ability to hear, the report continued.

Verzilov, Nikulshina and two other activists recently made news after they disrupted July’s FIFA World Cup’s final in Moscow. The activists ran onto the field wearing police uniforms, and briefly interrupted the match between France and Croatia. Pussy Riot said they were protesting excessive police powers in Russia. They served 15-day jail sentences for causing the disruption.

The news about Verzilov comes on the heels of another poisoning scandal that has shaken Russia. Just days ago, President Vladimir Putin stated that the two men who have been accused by the U.K. of carrying out a poisoning of an ex-Russian spy on British soil were “civilians” and not agents of the Russian security services, CNN reported.

Twitter users used the opportunity to link the two cases by responding to the tweet. Many others thanked the group’s courage for speaking out against totalitarianism and standing up for the oppressed.

“Must be those pesky civilians again…” one commenter wrote, while another added, “Seems like if you oppose Put in, stay away from windows and balconies, wear gloves and get someone you don’t like to try your food first,” with the accompanying hashtag #21stCenturyStalin.