Pussy Riot set at Riot Fest to go on despite allegations that Russian government poisoned one of its members

Nadya Tolokonnikova

By Bob Chiarito

Despite accusing the Russian government of poisoning one of its members days ago that has left him in grave condition, Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot will perform at Chicago’s Riot Fest on Friday.

Nadya Tolokonnikova, leader of Pussy Riot, confirmed to a reporter in Chicago before the group’s set on Friday that they believe Pyotr Verziloz was poisoned in retaliation for his political activism. Verziloz was one of three Pussy Riot members who served a 15-day jail sentence for disrupting July’s World Cup Final.

He was hospitalized last Tuesday in critical condition after losing his eyesight and ability to see, according to Russian news reports. Tolokonnikova said the hospital in Russia has not allowed family members to see him and would not give details.

“They will not really give us any real information. Basically what they told us so far is that maybe he just overworked,” Tolokonnikova said. “He wouldn’t be in critical condition from overworking. In a few hours he lost his speech, mobility and sight.”

Asked if she believed it could have been in response to Verziloz’s running on the field during the World Cup Final in July, Tolokonnikova said that may have played into it.

“It might be for a number of different reasons. He has been a political activist for a long time and this may be an unfortunate consequence.”

As for Pussy Riot’s Friday set — although Veriziloz is not part of Pussy Riot’s music act and was not scheduled to be in Chicago for Riot Fest, the group’s thoughts are consumed by his condition.

“We are not a band, we’re a political movement. He’s part of that. The show will happen but it will not be as we had planned it to be because the nature of what is going on around us has changed. We considered cancelling but thought it would be more important to go on with it and tell people what happened,” Tolokonnikova said.

Tolokonnikova said she will be flying back to Moscow as soon as their set is over.

 

 

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