Last week Peter Verzilov, a member of the Russian punk/art/protest collective Pussy Riot, was arrested during a day of widespread protests in Moscow. It was later revealed that he was hospitalized in serious condition, in what appeared to be an incident of intentional poisoning.
Since then, there has been much speculation and much-warranted indignation around the episode. To help clear things up, the other members of Pussy Riot released this statement yesterday.
German doctors from Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin hospital, Prof. Dr. Karl Max Einhäupl (CEO) and Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Eckardt, held a press conference today and they said their medical conclusion was that Peter Verzilov was poisoned in Moscow.
We wish we could get a comment from Peter about his poisoning, but we cannot since he’s still disoriented and not fully with us as the Peter we know. He’s dizzy and confused, he cannot remember where he is right now. He remembers his friends and relatives, but he does not understand that he’s in Germany, that he’s in a hospital and there are doctors around him, not prison wardens. “Are you the director of the prison?”, – Peter asked yesterday to the head of the hospital. It’s amnesia, but the good news is that this particular form of amnesia is reversible. In the very beginning he could not recognize his mother. Nothing like that anymore. But Peter’s thoughts are jumping from one subject to another quickly, which does not allow him to be fully present. And if you ask Peter why do you think you were poisoned, he most likely will tell you about the recent arrest of Igor Sechin, whether there is mobile connection in Arctic or not, about Marina Abramović and Ulay’s performances and his postmodernist phantasies. It may be scary, but most of the time Peter still has his unique sense of humor. When he saw me and Nika Nikulshina yesterday, he said “So good to see you without handcuffs”.
These effects are reversible. All the symptoms, as both Russian doctors at Sklyfosovsky hospital and the German doctors say, look exactly like effects of poisoning by anticholinergic agent. It’s a group of drugs, 40 or 50 of them, though the doctors cannot specify yet what exact compound is it. The benefits of anticholinergic drugs for those who want to poison someone is that they don’t last long in blood and urine, and in a few days they are gone (which means that German doctors may not find the exact compound used in the poisoning).
One possible poison from anticholinergic group is scopolamine, which is also known as “Devil’s breath”. It’s known among criminals, those who want to poison, rob, or rape someone. It’s also known as a “date-rape drug”. It has no taste or smell, you can add it to the food or drink. And it causes amnesia, it means that you can do whatever you want with someone and they will not remember who you are.
It’s important to realize that Peter’s life was in danger. He might be dead now if Nika Nikulshina was not around to help him. In large doses anticholinergic drugs can cause respiratory failure and death.
It’s important that we were able to move Peter from Russia to Germany, Charité hospital. First, his life is still in danger in Russia. Second, in Germany we can find out what happened, since Russian doctors are under the influence of Russian government, those people who possibly poisoned Peter. Third, treatment here is dramatically more humane. In Moscow Peter was tied up with his arms and legs to the bed – to prevent panic attacks, according the doctors there. We believe tying somebody up can only cause panic attacks, not prevent them. Peter is free to move here in Charité. Doctors are open, they have nothing to hide from relatives, they let us be with Peter 24 hours a day, and they share with us every piece of information they find.
Please follow these accounts for updates:
Pussy Riot: https://twitter.com/pussyrrriot
Nadya Tolokonnikova: http://www.twitter.com/tolokno
Peter Verzilov: https://twitter.com/gruppa_voina (currently not active)