Pussy Riot activist out of danger after suspected poisoning

Pussy Riot punk band member Pyotr Verzilov (C) has regained consciousness after being hospitalised in Moscow with suspected poisoning. (AFP pic)

BERLIN: A member of Russian dissident punk band Pussy Riot, Pyotr Verzilov, was the victim of suspected poisoning with unknown substances but is now out of danger, his German doctors said Tuesday.

“The impression and the findings that we now have, as well as those provided by colleagues from Moscow, suggest that it was highly plausible that it was a case of poisoning,” said Kai-Uwe Eckardt, a leading doctor at Berlin’s Charite hospital.

The hospital’s chairman Karl Max Einhaeupl added that his “health condition was improving from day to day and he is no longer in life-threatening danger.”

Verzilov, who has both Canadian and Russian citizenship, was admitted to a clinic in Moscow one week ago after falling ill following a court hearing.

The 30-year-old was initially treated in intensive care and later regained consciousness.

Late on Saturday, he was flown to Germany by the Cinema for Peace Foundation, an NGO which has long supported the band’s activism.

Eckardt said the toxin that affected Verzilov caused anticholinergic syndrome which disrupts the nervous system.

The German doctor added that tests were being run to determine the substance but chances of finding it was slim as the laboratory tests were done almost a week after it was used.

Einhaeupl ruled out the possibility that it was substance abuse by Verzilov himself.

“Such substances are extremely rare in drug circles and we have no indication that it was a drug problem,” he said.

“For someone to take this drug in such quantities, the person must have suicidal tendencies, and we have absolutely no indication of such intentions” in this case, he added.

Verzilov’s estranged wife, Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, told Sunday’s edition of Bild that he was the victim of either an act of intimidation or attempted murder”.