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'Poisoned' Pussy Riot member flown out of Russia

A member of Russian activist group Pussy Riot, who is suspected to have been poisoned, has been flown to Germany for treatment.

Video has emerged of Pyotr Verzilov, who was said to be in a critical condition on Thursday, arriving in Berlin after being flown to see medics.

One of his bandmates, Maria Alekhina, told reporters Mr Verzilov, who has both Canadian and Russian citizenship, regained consciousness on Friday, but has remained unwell.

She also said she thinks the 30-year-old was poisoned for political reasons.

A video posted on Twitter by his ex-wife and fellow activist Nadya Tolokonnikova showed Mr Verzilov aboard a plane in the German capital.

German newspaper Bild reported he arrived in Berlin on a special medical transport flight late on Saturday.

Veronika Nikulshina said Verzilov's condition had deteriorated
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Veronika Nikulshina said Mr Verzilov had been poisoned with anti-cholinergic drugs

Bild said he would be moved to an unnamed Berlin clinic for treatment.

His wife, who waited for her husband at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport, told the newspaper: “I believe that he was poisoned intentionally, and that it was an attempt to intimidate him or kill him.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Ottawa is taking Mr Verzilov’s illness “very seriously”.

He said: “It is of concern, obviously, particularly given actions of recent months by the Russians in the United Kingdom… but it is too early to draw any conclusions about what has happened.”

Verzilov has reportedly lost his ability to see, speak and move around
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Mr Verzilov was sentenced to 15 days in jail for a World Cup protest

Last week, another Pussy Riot member, Veronika Nikulshina, told Russian website Meduza that her bandmate started to feel unwell shortly after a court hearing.

Mr Verzilov, Ms Nikulshina and two other Pussy Riot members were ordered to serve 15 days in jail for running on to a pitch during the World Cup final.

They were protesting against what they described as the excessive powers of Russia’s police.

Ms Nikulshina told Meduza that as Mr Verzilov became ill he started “convulsing” and “babbling” before falling into a “half-asleep, half-unconscious state”.

Justin Trudeau answers questions from the media in Montreal
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Canada’s Justin Trudeau has said he is worried by what happened to Mr Verzilov

When he reached the Bakhrushin City Clinical Hospital in Sokolniki, his condition then deteriorated and he was moved to its toxicology wing.

On Sunday, Ms Nikulshina said the move was prompted by doctor from a Berlin clinic – who is friends with the sick man’s father – who suggested he should receive medical care outside Russia.

Mr Verzilov is the publisher of online news outlet Mediazona, which focuses on human rights abuses inside Russia’s justice system.

Ms Nikulshina told Meduza she believed Mr Verzilov had been poisoned with a “large dose” of “anti-cholinergic drugs”, which act to suppress the actions of nerves that control essential functions of the body.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury in March
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Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with novichok in Salisbury

There has so far been no official statement on the cause of his illness.

The activist fell ill on the day two Russians accused of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal with the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury claimed they visited the city as tourists.

The Skripals, who are understood to be staying in a safe house in the UK, were found slumped on a bench, hallucinating and foaming at the mouth.

A witness, Freya Church, told the BBC the man she saw on the bench at the time was looking up at the sky and making “strange hand movements”.

They looked “out of it”, she said.

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