You went to Salisbury to see the clock?


It’s like this: going to Salisbury to see the sights is plausible as part of an extended tourist adventure. I know this for a fact because I’ve done it myself – gotten a rail pass and run around visiting places for seven days. Salisbury was one of the places, and I wasn’t disappointed. But as a destination? On a one-day trip to London? Nah.

And now there’s Pyotr Verzilov. Masha Gessen at the New Yorker:

There is little I can say about the latest apparent poisoning in Russia that I haven’t said before. And before that. And more recently. That Russian enemies of the current regime are often killed, most frequently by poisoning, is now a fact that requires no elaboration. In the past decade and a half, many people have fallen mysteriously ill or have died of multiple-organ failure as a result of poisoning with toxins known or, more often, unknown. Pyotr Verzilov, a thirty-year-old artist and activist who is currently in intensive care in Moscow, appears to be the latest victim of an attack by poison.

I met Verzilov during Russia’s winter of protests, in 2011 and 2012, and got to know him while I was reporting a book on the protest-art group Pussy Riot. Verzilov was married to Nadya Tolokonnikova, then twenty-two, who was the mastermind of the group. He had been a philosophy student; an artist with the group Voyna (the Russian word for “war”), a precursor to Pussy Riot; and an all-around support person and publicist for the all-female Pussy Riot. During the two years when Tolokonnikova and another Pussy Riot member, Maria Alekhina, were behind bars, Verzilov worked to draw the world’s attention to the case, to keep appeals and complaints against their imprisonment coming, and to insure that the two young women, who were serving their sentences in different parts of the country, were communicating. He shuttled tirelessly between Moscow, the two prison colonies, and whatever courts were reviewing complaints related to the case. He even produced Pussy Riot clips featuring other group members.

Later he and Tolokonnikova separated but they still worked together.

On July 15th of this year, during the last game of the World Cup, in Moscow, four people dressed in police uniforms ran onto the field, disrupting the match. Almost immediately, the Pussy Riot Twitter account posted an explication of the action: it was meant as a reminder that, whatever progressive front Russia was putting on for the soccer championship, it was a police state. The four people on the field were three women and Verzilov, and that probably means that this was Pussy Riot’s first action that didn’t involve only women.

They were all arrested, but they received bizarrely mild sentences; Gessen suggests that if the protest hadn’t been at such a globally watched event, the punishment would have been a lot more harsh.

On Sunday, when tens of thousands of people were protesting across Russia, two of the participants in the soccer action were arrested again, ostensibly for a traffic violation. They were taken to jail and held for two days. One of the two was Veronika Nikulshina, Verzilov’s current partner. Verzilov posted on social media about the arrest in colorful detail, as he had done throughout Pussy Riot’s existence.

On Tuesday, the two women were brought to court. Verzilov attended. The judge sentenced the women to two days in jail and ordered them released for time served. When Verzilov and Nikulshina left, he complained of feeling unwell.

And he rapidly got worse, losing his sight, then his speech, then his ability to walk straight.

By the time he was in an ambulance, Verzilov was no longer fully conscious and was having seizures. Nikulshina told Meduza (and Tolokonniva confirmed) that, at around one in the morning, Verzilov was taken to the intensive-care unit of a toxicology center, an indication that the doctors at the Moscow hospital suspected that he had been poisoned.

That’s Trump’s beloved Putin.

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