In a Morning Raid, Russian Police Arrested Pussy Riot Member Peter Verzilov for His Alleged Role in Last Summer’s Anti-Corruption Riots

Russian authorities are cracking down on the protest group yet again.

Pussy Riot activist Peter Verzilov in Berlin last year. Photo by Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Russian police have detained Peter Verzilov, a member of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot, who they accuse of instigating riots last summer over corruption in Moscow’s city elections.

After authorities broke into Verzilov’s apartment yesterday, the post-punk feminist collective posted news of his disappearance on Twitter.

Verzilov is a performance artist and was among the protesters who invaded the soccer pitch at the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia to demand that the country release all political prisoners. He was poisoned while in police custody later that year, after being arrested in what activists believe was a retaliation for the World Cup stunt.

A statement from Pussy Riot today says that 20 policemen and a police dog, led by three officers of the Investigative Committee (Russia’s main federal investigating authority) broke into Verzilov’s home at 7 a.m. on Sunday using a sledgehammer and grinder. 

After allegedly entering without a search warrant, they seized evidence that authorities said confirmed Verzilov’s “involvement in the organization of the riots, as well as confirming the involvement of others in the use of violence against government officials,” according to a search report obtained by Pussy Riot.

Without being able to contact relatives or his lawyer, Verzilov was then interrogated for 13 hours by Rustam Gabdulin, the senior investigator and major general of justice who is leading an investigation into the July 27 unrest. 

The riots last summer came after rallies protesting Russian officials’ refusal to register opposition and independent candidates for the city elections. According to the statement, Verzilov was interrogated about his connection to the rallies, how he “coordinated” the riots, and his alleged ties to the Russian politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

In their statement, Pussy Riot says that on the date in question, Peter was in Estonia meeting with the Estonian president. They also shared video footage of police entering Verzilov’s home with a sledgehammer.

The statement goes on to say that, immediately after Verzilov was released, he was attacked by a “provocateur hired by Putin’s political police,” which gave the authorities an excuse to arrest him again. He was charged with “hooliganism,” for which he can be detained for up to 15 days. After spending the night at the police station, Verzilov is expected to appear in court today. 

“Most likely, he’ll get a few weeks of arrests for ‘hooliganism,’” the statement says, adding that “It’s still not clear what will happen with accusations of ‘organizing mass riots.'” The latter is a serious crime in Russia, which is punishable by years in prison.

The group, which often faces trouble with the law for its provocative performances opposing the country’s oppressive regime, tweeted that the whole ordeal is just another “normal day in Russia.”

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