Pyotr Verzilov

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Pyotr Verzilov
Pyotr Verzilov
Born (1987-10-25) 25 October 1987 (age 30)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
  • Russian
  • Canadian
Education Moscow State University
Spouse(s) Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (div.)
Children 1

Pyotr Verzilov (Russian: Пётр Верзилов, IPA: [ˈpʲɵtr vʲɪrˈzʲiləf]; born 25 October 1987)[1] is a Russian-Canadian artist and activist who came to prominence as the unofficial spokesperson of the band Pussy Riot when they were arrested and jailed by the Russian state in 2012. Verzilov has been married to Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

He invaded the pitch during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final and was shoved by Croatian player Dejan Lovren, before security personnel escorted him away.


Born in Moscow,[2] Verzilov lived in Canada as a boy, attending school in Toronto between 1999 and 2003. He returned to Russia to complete his school education, then studied philosophy at Moscow State University.[3] "I always saw my future in Russia. I am a Russian man. I am inspired by the Russian language, the Russian reality," he later told the Toronto Star.[3] However, because of his residency Verzilov obtained a Canadian passport and residency rights.[4]

Verzilov met Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at university. They both became known for outrageous art performances[3] as part of the performance art group Voina.[5] This included filming public sex acts in a Moscow biological museum to protest the President's call for increased reproduction, in 2008, when his wife was heavily pregnant.[3] After Voina split in 2009, the Saint Petersburg faction accused Verzilov of being a police informer.[6] Verzilov later described these accusations as "lies – brutal, old lies", blaming them on the "very nasty breakup" of Voina.[1]

In July 2010, at the conclusion of a trial of two art gallery curators in a Moscow court, Verzilov reportedly burst in and released a bag of live cockroaches.[7]

Verzilov took part in the Euromaidan protest in Kiev (Ukraine) in December 2013.[8][9]

Pussy Riot[edit]

Verzilov's former wife Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is a member of the Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot who, in February 2012, staged a protest inside the Moscow Cathedral. On 17 August, Tolokonnikova and two other members were sentenced to two years' imprisonment for 'hooliganism'.[10] Subsequent to their arrest and imprisonment Verzilov became a prominent representative and spokesperson for Pussy Riot.[5][6][11]

He lobbied the singer Madonna for support prior to her 2012 Moscow concert.[12] On 14 September 2012, Verzilov was interviewed by the BBC's Zeinab Badawi for the HARDtalk programme.[13] In September that year, Verzilov accepted the LennonOno grant for peace from Yoko Ono, on behalf of Pussy Riot, at a ceremony in New York.[14]

However, in October 2012, the jailed Pussy Riot members published a letter, via their lawyer, disowning Verzilov as their spokesman. They said he had "seized representation and decision-making of Pussy Riot" and had misrepresented their views. "The only person who can legitimately represent the group is a girl in a balaclava," they stated. Verzilov's actions were "treacherous to punk."[5]

He is also among the founders of Pussy Riot's news website Mediazone, which since 2014 has reported critically on the legal system and law enforcement practice.[15][16]

In mid-July 2018, along with Veronika Nikulshina, Olga Pakhtusova and Olga Kurachyova, he was jailed for 15 days after invading the pitch wearing fake police uniforms during the World Cup final. The judge also banned the four from attending sports events for three years.[17]

Alleged poisoning[edit]

On 12 September 2018, it was reported by the media that Verzilov had been hospitalized and was in critical condition in a toxiological department of the Bakhrushin City Clinical Hospital in Moscow. Doctors at the clinic suggested an overdose or poisoning with anticholinergic drugs, which are used to treat a variety of conditions, including dizziness, ulcers, insomnia, and asthma. His relatives suspected poisoning to be the cause, saying that he didn´t take such medicine.[18][19] The hospitalization took place just after he had visited court proceedings against a Pussy Riot member, Veronika Nikulshina, at the Moscow Basmanny Court, and a critical interview about the Russian legal system given to the television channel Al Jazeera.[20] Concerning his work for Mediazone, he was about to receive a final journalistic report on investigations on the killing of 3 Russian journalists in the Central African Republic in July 2018, according to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.[21][22]

On 14 September, he was transferred to the specialist Sklifosovsky Institute clinic in Moscow.[23] On 15 September, he was flown to Berlin, Germany, for further medical care and examination at the Charité hospital.[24][25][26] On 17 September, it was reported that Verzilov was gradually recovering.[27][28] On 18 September, doctors at the German hospital said in a statement that it was "highly probable" that Verzilov had been poisoned, that the cause was being investigated, but that he was going to make a complete recovery.[29] In a statement from the same day, the Pussy Riot group stated that Verzilov was still very confused, and they accused the Russian government of poisoning. They also noted that the poison was designed to leave the victim's body quickly, so that it would be difficult to prove the exact details.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Verzilov was married to Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. They have a daughter, Gera, born c. 2008.[1] Tolokonnikova and Verzilov are now divorced.


  1. ^ a b c "Husband of Pussy Riot Member: 'We'll Continue to Fight, No Matter What the Verdict'". Der Spiegel. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  2. ^ Верзилов Петр Юрьевич (in Russian). 12 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Narizhnaya, Khristina (19 August 2012). "Husband of Pussy Riot member says they'll revisit Canada". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  4. ^ Adams, Joanna (18 August 2012). "Pussy Riot: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's Husband Pyotr Verzilov Says Canadian Connection Puts Band At Risk". Huffington Post (Canada). Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Malpas, Anna (12 October 2012). "Pussy Riot women disown husband as group's spokesman". The Daily Star. Lebanon. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Pyotr Verzilov: Pussy Riot's Bearded Face". RIA Novosti. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  7. ^ Judah, Ben (13 July 2010). "Russian curators anger church, but escape jail". Reuters. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  8. ^ Why do Ukraine protests matter?, BBC News (3 December 2013)
  9. ^ 2 December 2013 episode of As It Happens, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (2 December 2013)
  10. ^ "Pussy Riot members jailed for two years for hooliganism". BBC News. 17 August 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Putin is deciding this trial: Verzilov (TV interview)". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Pussy Riot turns into squabble for money". 2 November 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Pyotr Verzilov – Russian artist and political activist". HARDtalk. BBC News Channel. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Yoko Ono bestows peace grant on Pussy Riot". The Washington Times. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Participant Pussy Riot Peter Verzilov was in intensive care with symptoms of poisoning". 13 September 2018.
  16. ^ Muchnik, Andrei (19 July 2017). ""Riot Days" brings back Pussy Riot songs". openDemocracy.
  17. ^ "Pussy Riot pitch invaders jailed 15 days". Otaga Daily Times. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Doctors reportedly suspect Pussy Riot member Pyotr Verzilov was poisoned with a neurotransmitter-blocking medicine". Meduza. 13 September 2018.
  19. ^ "'First it was his vision, then his speech, and then his legs' Pussy Riot member Pyotr Verzilov is hospitalized in critical condition and friends fear he was poisoned". Meduza. 12 September 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  20. ^ Nikolay Korzhov (14 September 2018). "Pussy Riot's Pyotr Verzilov: No criminal justice system in Russia". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Pussy Riot member Pyotr Verzilov was reportedly expecting an investigative report about the murder of three Russian documentary filmmakers on the day he was apparently poisoned". Meduza. 18 September 2018.
  22. ^ Gessen, Masha (19 September 2018). "We Now Know More About the Apparent Poisoning of the Pussy Riot Member Pyotr Verzilov". The New Yorker.
  23. ^ "Man behind Pussy Riot seriously ill & may have been poisoned, say family". RT. 13 September 2018.
  24. ^ Fransesca Ebell (15 September 2018). "Severely ill Pussy Riot member to be treated in Germany". AP News. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  25. ^ "Pussy Riot's Pyotr Verzilov flown to Germany for treatment". BBC News. 16 September 2018.
  26. ^ "Pussy-Riot-Mitglied zur Behandlung in Berlin". Der Tagesspiegel. 16 September 2018.
  27. ^ "Russian Activist Verzilov Doing 'Better' After Possible Poisoning". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 17 September 2018.
  28. ^ "German government concerned over health of 'poisoned' Pussy Riot member -". Associated Press. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  29. ^ Smee, Jess; Harding, Luke (18 September 2018). "'Highly probable' Pussy Riot activist was poisoned, say German doctors". The Guardian.
  30. ^ Barsanti, Sam (18 September 2018). "Pussy Riot releases statement on apparent poisoning". The A.V. Club.