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‘This is absolutely poisoning’ Pussy Riot member Pyotr Verzilov's partner and mother tell Meduza about the activist's condition

Meduza
23:05, 13 september 2018

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP / Scanpix / LETA

Doctors at Moscow Sklifosovsky Institute treating Pyotr Verzilov have ruled out the risk of a brain hemorrhage, Verzilov’s partner, fellow Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina, told Meduza. He was hospitalized on September 11 in critical condition after the sudden loss of his vision, speech, and mobility.

Earlier on September 13, the news agency Interfax reported that Verzilov was “in fact, in a pre-stroke condition,” saying his blood work revealed “no drugs other than the ones the doctors gave him.” Nikulshina calls these claims “absurd nonsense,” saying that doctors at the Sklifosovsky Institute specifically evaluated Verzilov’s stroke risk and ruled it out “conclusively.” Elena Verzilova, Pyotr’s mother, told Meduza that her son’s ultrasound and CT scan “showed no vascular changes whatsoever.”

“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. According to Elena Verzilova, “these aren’t the kind of drugs that are easy to remove [from his system].”

Verzilov is currently unconscious in intensive care. According to friends, he’s in “medicated sleep,” because he “starts to become overactive when awake,” raising his blood pressure. Doctors apparently haven’t ruled out putting Verzilov on a ventilator. His friends say new information won’t be available until the morning of September 14, when his latest test results are in.

A member of Pussy Riot and the publisher of the investigative news website Mediazona, which conducts often daring reporting on Russia's criminal justice system, 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 his then wife, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. On September 11, paramedics brought Verzilov to Moscow’s Bakhrushin City Clinical Hospital, where he was treated at the toxicology wing before being transferred to the Moscow Sklifosovsky Institute on September 13.

Report by Viktor Davydov, Darya Sarkisyan, and Sasha Sulim, translation by Kevin Rothrock