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12 Mar, 2024 08:58

Pussy Riot founder’s sentence overturned

A Russian court had ordered a retrial due to procedural violations
Pussy Riot founder’s sentence overturned

The Moscow City Court has overturned the verdict of a lower court against a founding member of the anarchist punk group Pussy Riot several months ago, citing a breach of procedure. 

Pyotr Verzilov, who was accused of spreading fake news about the Russian Army, had his case sent for retrial over “violations of procedural law,” the court’s press service said in a post on Telegram on Monday.

Verzilov fled Russia in 2020 after he was charged with failing to inform the Russian authorities about his Canadian citizenship, in violation of local laws. In November, Vezsilov was tried in absentia and sentenced to eight years and six months in prison.

The criminal case against Verzilov related to social media posts that, according to prosecutors, amounted to deliberate disinformation about the Russian military. Specifically, he accused troops of massacring civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha in 2022. The allegations, which originated from Kiev and its Western backers, have been rejected by Moscow as false. 

Verzilov emerged in the public eye in 2012 after Pussy Riot member and his ex-partner Nadya Tolokonnikova and her fellow activists staged a “punk prayer” performance at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Verzilov gained notoriety in Russia in the late 2000s and early 2010s for the performances of his Voyna (War) art group. The breakout moment for the group was a filmed orgy in 2008, which he and other members described as an anti-government protest. 

In 2014, Verzilov and his associates founded the online news site Mediazona, which has received numerous awards from Western and Russian opposition media organizations. In October 2023, Verzilov announced that he had joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

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