Allegedly poisoned Russian activist's life could depend on Canada's response: Browder

The alleged poisoning of a member of Pussy Riot, along with the appearance of two alleged poisoners on Russian state TV, is a message to the West, says Putin critic.

Things could go either way for Pyotr Verzilov, says Putin critic

Pyotr Verzilov is seriously ill and in hospital following an allegedly politically motivated poisoning. (Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press)
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Ottawa's reaction to the alleged poisoning of a Canadian-Russian citizen in Moscow could decide whether he lives or dies, according to Bill Browder.

Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and member of the protest band Pussy Riot, is seriously ill and in hospital following what his bandmates allege was a politically motivated poisoning.

"He's in critical condition, things could go either way," Browder told The Current's guest host Michelle Shephard.

Browder was once one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia, but now campaigns for the country to face sanctions over human rights abuses.

The efforts that Russian medical officials put into saving Verzilov's life could be influenced by the Canadian government, he said. But the government's reaction must go beyond mere words, he added.

"The main thing that the Canadian government should and could do is demonstrate very clearly to the Russian government that this is a Canadian citizen," he said, "and whatever his fate is will have real and meaningful effects on the Canadian-Russian relationship."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Saskatoon on Thursday 0:50

Verzilov lived in Canada as a teenager, and holds Canadian and Russian citizenship. He and other members of Pussy Riot ran onto the field at the World Cup final in Moscow on July 15, in a stunt to promote free speech. They were arrested and served a 15-day sentence.

He was rushed to hospital on Tuesday night after he started to lose his eyesight, motor skills and ability to talk.

To discuss the issue, The Current's guest host Michelle Shepard was joined by:

  • Bill Browder, an American-born British anti-Kremlin critic
  • Amy Knight, historian and author of Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


Produced by Allie Jaynes, Zena Olijnyk and John Chipman.

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