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Anti-Kremlin activist being treated in Germany after suspected poisoning

Band member Pyotr Verzilov (left) gestures as he walks with police during a court hearing on July 31 at a courthouse in Moscow, as members of the Russian protest-art group are accused of disturbing public order during the World Cup final in Moscow. Verzilov is being treated in Germany after a suspected poisoning. (VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Pyotr Verzilov, an outspoken and prominent critic of the Russian government, is being treated in Germany after a suspected poisoning. Although he has shown signs of improvement, the German government said it was still concerned about his condition on Monday.

What are the details?

Verzilov is the publisher of Mediazona, an online news source focusing on abuses by the Russian penal system. He's also affiliated with the notoriously anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot, of which his ex-wife, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is a member.

In addition to being a Russian citizen, Verzilov is also a Canadian citizen. The Canadian government has said that it is closely monitoring this situation.

On Tuesday, Verzilov reportedly collapsed after a court hearing in Moscow. He and two other members of the band had recently finished serving a 15-day jail sentence for rushing onto the field to protest during the World Cup.

On Saturday, the human rights group, Cinema for Peace, paid for Verzilov to be flown from Moscow to Berlin to be treated for a range of symptoms including blindness, loss of speech, and loss of mobility. The Russian government has reportedly been cooperative throughout this process.

What did his girlfriend say?

On Sunday, Veronika Nikulshina, another band member and Verzilov's girlfriend, told Reuters “[h]e’s better. Everything is okay.”

Nikulshina also dismissed as “absurd nonsense” claims by Russia's Interfax news agency that Verzilov's blood contained “no drugs other than the ones the doctor gave him.”

“This is absolutely poisoning. Poisoning by anticholinergic drugs. It's something like the atropine Cyclopentolate — what's found in medicines. But the issue here is the large dosage,” Nikulshina said in an interview with Meduza, another Russian outlet.

Tolokonnikova echoed these suspicions to the German tabloid Bild, calling what happened to Verzilov “intimidation or even an assassination attempt.”

What else?

The cause of Verzilov's condition has not been officially disclosed by medical professionals or by the German government.

On Monday, during a news conference, a spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry  said that the German government has “followed the case, of course, and are concerned about the health of Mr Verzilov.”

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