Pussy Riot activist in Berlin hospital after 'murder bid'

©Agence France-Presse

Pussy Riot activist Pyotr Verzilov was rushed to hospital on Tuesday then treated in intensive care for an apparent poisoning

Berlin (AFP) - A member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot was flown to a Berlin hospital overnight after a suspected poisoning, with his estranged wife saying Sunday it may have been attempted murder. 

Pyotr Verzilov, who has both Canadian and Russian citizenship, was admitted to a clinic in Moscow on Tuesday after falling ill following a court hearing. 

Described by staff as being in "serious" condition, the 30-year-old was initially treated in intensive care and later regained consciousness. He was however still experiencing hallucinations and delirium, his girlfriend told Russian media on Friday. 

Late on Saturday, he was flown to Germany aboard a medical helicopter chartered by the Cinema for Peace Foundation, an NGO which has long supported the band's activism. 

On arrival, he was met by Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, his estranged wife, who told a German newspaper the poisoning may have been an attempt to kill him. 

"I'm working on the principle that he was the victim of either an act of intimidation or attempted murder," she told the Sunday edition of Bild. 

Speaking to a Russian website on Friday, his girlfriend Veronika Nikulshina, also a Pussy Riot activist, said it was "definitely poisoning". 

She said he had been administered a "large dose" of anti-cholinergic drugs, which are used to treat a range of issues including lung conditions. His family said he was not on any medication.

Testing for poison

Verzilov's collapse on Tuesday came after he and Nikulshina had served a 15-day jail sentence along with two other Pussy Riot members for invading the pitch during the World Cup final in July to highlight Russian police abuses. 

Jaka Bizilj, who chairs the Cinema for Peace Foundation, said the NGO had urgently despatched an air ambulance to bring him to Berlin to run tests. 

"It was important for the family that he be hospitalised as quickly as possible outside of Russia," he told Bild. 

"We hope it will be possible in Berlin to quickly help him and see if he was poisoned in Russia, and how," he added.

The paper said the German government was also involved in talks over transferring him to Berlin. 

Another Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina told RIA Novosti state news agency that Tolokonnikova had also been involved in organising the airlift. 

"They found a doctor there, he will give a diagnosis and treat him," she said. 

Writing on Facebook, his girlfriend Nikulshina expressed relief he had been transferred out of Russia. 

"Three times hurrah to everyone who wrote, phoned, visited, cried and sang: we're in Berlin. All is well," she wrote.