Russia sentences Pussy Riot activist to eight years for Ukraine
Russia sentences Pussy Riot activist to eight years for Ukraine

Russia sentences Pussy Riot activist to eight years for Ukraine ‘war fakes’

LONDON (Reuters) – A Moscow court sentenced in absentia Pytor Verzilov, a Russian-Canadian activist and independent news site founder, to eight years and four months for social media posts criticising the war in Ukraine, Russian media reported on Tuesday.

Verzilov, 36, rose to prominence as the unofficial spokesperson of the feminist opposition group Pussy Riot after the jailing of its members following a stunt in Feb. 2012 in which they donned balaclavas and stormed into Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral, shouting out a song against Putin.

Last week, the same court sentenced another Pussy Riot activist, Lyusya Shtein, to six years also in absentia under wartime censorship laws.

Verzilov has posted frequent criticism on social media of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including videos showing mass graves in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

The Ostorozhno Novosti Telegram channel said that Moscow’s Basmanny District Court had found Verzilov guilty of spreading “deliberately false” information about the Russian military.

He was sentenced last year for the crime, but an appellate court overturned the verdict in March for unspecified reasons and ordered a retrial.

Verzilov left Russia in 2020 after authorities searched his home and he was charged with failing to inform the government he is a citizen of Canada, where he spent part of his childhood.

He announced last spring that he had joined the Ukrainian army fighting against Russia, although it is unclear if he is still there.

Verzilov couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

In 2014, he and other Pussy Riot activists co-founded independent news site Mediazona, which reports on Russia’s criminal justice system.

An ally of the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Verzilov was, like Navalny, treated in Germany for suspected poisoning after he fell ill suddenly in Russia in 2018 and temporarily lost his sight, hearing and ability to walk.

(Reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Sharon Singleton)

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