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24th of October 2018


Trudeau expresses ‘concern’ over suspected poisoning of Canadian Pussy Riot activist in Russia

Pyotr Verzilov, the Pussy Riot member hospitalized late Tuesday night in a suspected case of poisoning, is Canadian.

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Global Affairs Canada has confirmed that the activist, who has reportedly been in emergency care in grave condition since earlier this week, holds dual Canadian and Russian citizenship, which raises serious questions about whether the Russian government was involved and how the Canadian government will respond.

READ MORE: Pussy Riot activist hospitalized after possible poisoning, Russian news reports say

“This is a situation of concern and I can confirm that Canadian consular officials have reached out to the medical facility in which he’s held,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reporters on Thursday.

“We are certainly very engaged with this situation and it is of concern, obviously, given actions of recent months by the Russians in the UK … it is too early to draw any conclusions about what has happened or how it has happened.”

Reports of the suspected poisoning came out Wednesday from a Russian radio and online news portal, quoting fellow Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina.

She was quoted as saying Verzilov had lost his eyesight and was not able to speak.

WATCH: Trudeau comments on poisoning of Canadian citizen Pyotr Verzilov

He is being treated in a toxicology ward in Moscow, she said.

READ MORE: Anti-Kremlin group Pussy Riot claims responsibility for World Cup final pitch invasion

During the World Cup final held in Russia in July, several members of the punk rock protest band ran onto the field to protest excessive police powers in Russia.

Verzilov, Nikulshina and two others were handed 15-day jail sentences in response.

The anti-Kremlin group first gained global attention in 2012 after three of its original members filmed a video of themselves protesting against Russian President Vladimir Putin in a church and subsequently received jail sentences.

The Kremlin does not tolerate dissent and has faced criticism for its response to protests by the group members.

READ MORE: Canada expels four Russian officials in retaliation for U.K. spy attack

But Verzilov’s case comes as Russia is under the glare of international scrutiny for allegedly having two of its citizens poison Sergei Skripal, a former spy, and his daughter earlier this year in the English town of Salisbury using a class of nerve agent called Novichok.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were treated in British hospitals and have declined offers from Russia to return there, opting instead to remain in the U.K.

WATCH BELOW: Yulia Skripal speaks out for first time since poisoning

In response to that attack, which the Kremlin denies being involved in, 20 states including Canada expelled dozens of Russian diplomats from their countries.

The United States expelled 60 and Russia expelled the same number of American diplomats in retaliation.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters gathered at the Liberal caucus retreat in Saskatoon Wednesday night she is watching the situation.

She did not speculate on whether the government plans to respond.

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