Nov 16, 2021
Pyotr Verzilov, Russian Activist and Journalist, Has Been Added to Russia’s Wanted List for Holding Canadian Citizenship

Pyotr Verzilov, 34, the publisher of the independent media website Mediazona, has been added to Russia’s wanted list.

According to the database, Pyotr is wanted “under an article of the Criminal Code.” Other details, including the article under which he faces charges are not provided.

His lawyer, Leonid Solovyov, has confirmed that his client’s name appeared on the wanted list on the Interior Ministry’s website over his alleged failure to report to authorities that he also holds Canadian citizenship.

“It didn’t happen today; Peter was put on the wanted list six months ago. This is connected to the criminal case of a second passport (Pyotr Verzilov is a citizen not only of Russia, but also of Canada), which was initiated against Verzilov in the summer of 2020. He himself is not in Russia at the moment,” Mediazona clarified.

Leonid Solovyov said that Pyotr Verzilov had never hidden his Canadian citizenship. Mediazona explained that Verzilov’s father lived in Canada, and he himself went to school there, after which he received his citizenship.

On September 29, 2021, Russian Ministry of Justice designated Mediazona as “foreign agent” along with over 20 individual journalists and rights activists. The Russian government uses the “foreign agents” designation to label what it perceives foreign-funded organizations engaged in political activity, as well as people linked to them.

On September 14, more than 150 Russian news agencies, NGOs, and charitable organizations launched a petition demanding the repeal of Russia’s “foreign agents” law.

Who is Pyotr Verzilov?

Pyotr Verzilov, 34, is a Russian-Canadian artist and activist, and the publisher of an independent news website Mediazona, which since 2014 has reported critically on the legal system and law enforcement practices in Russia.

Pyotr came to prominence as the unofficial spokesperson of the Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot when he was arrested and jailed by the Russian state in 2012.Verzilov’s former wife Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is a member of Pussy Riot who staged a protest inside the Moscow Cathedral in February 2012. Later Tolokonnikova and two other members were sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism”.

On September 12, 2018, it was reported that Pyotr Verzilov was hospitalized in critical condition to a toxicological department of the Bakhrushin City Clinic in Moscow. On September 18, doctors at the German hospital said in a statement that it was “highly probable” that Pyotr had been poisoned.

Pyotr Verzilov has been sentenced to jail terms of between 10 and 20 days several times in recent years for taking part and organizing protest performances in Russia. Mediazona website focuses on news related to human rights, civil society, and the crackdown on dissent in Russia. Its editor-in-chief is Russian political journalist Sergey Smirnov.