Russia puts prominent Pussy Riot member on wanted list

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities on Monday added Pyotr Verzilov, a prominent member of the protest group Pussy Riot, to the government’s wanted list, in the latest step to turn up the pressure on opposition activists and independent media.

Verzilov, a publisher of independent news site Mediazona, was labelled “foreign agent” along with the media outlet and its chief editor Sergei Smirnov in September. The designation comes with additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations that can discredit the recipient.

His name appeared on the Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted list due to his failure to report his Canadian citizenship to authorities, according to his lawyer Leonid Solovyov.

In comments to the Russia’s state news agency Tass, Solovyov stressed that Verzilov doesn’t face imprisonment for this offence and might be ordered to pay a fine or do community service if convicted.

Since 2014, Russians who fail to report their second citizenship may either face a fine of up to 200,000 rubles ($2,770) or up to 400 hours of community service.

In recent months, the government has designated a number of independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents” and raided the homes of several prominent reporters. The publisher of one outlet that released investigative reports on alleged corruption and abuses by top Russian officials and tycoons close to Putin was outlawed as an “undesirable” organization.

Two other news outlets shut down after authorities accused them of links to “undesirable” organizations.

Human rights groups in Russia have faced similar pressure, with at least two disbanding themselves in recent months to avoid a further crackdown.

Verzilov attracted worldwide attention in 2018 when he and three other Pussy Riot activists ran onto the soccer pitch during the World Cup final in Moscow to protest police brutality, an action for which they served 15 days in jail.

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