Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 19.09.2018
“Very concerned by physicians’ findings it is ‘highly plausible’ that Canadian citizen Pyotr Verzilov was poisoned. I have assured his family that Canada stands ready to provide any necessary assistance, and will continue to gather information on the cause of his illness.” – Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Twitter, September 18.
Activist and member of the Pussy Riot art-protest collective, Pyotr Verzilov, has fallen gravely ill after an apparent poisoning. It happened in the Russian Federation, as Mr. Verzilov was about to receive information about the murders of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic. Those journalists – Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal – were investigating “Wagner Group” private military contractors who are de facto mercenaries for the Kremlin. The “Wagner Group” is Putin’s preferred source of mercenaries for his wars against the Ukrainian people and against the Syrian people.
Pyotr Verzilov was one of the group of Pussy Riot protestors who invaded the pitch during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Pussy Riot made this list of demands to Putin on July 15: free all political prisoners; no imprisonment for “likes”; stop illegal arrests at rallies; allow political competition in the country; no fabrication of criminal accusations and don’t keep people in jail for no reason; and “turn the earthly policeman into the heavenly policeman.”
Now Pyotr Verzilov is in Germany for medical treatment. His symptoms reportedly included loss of sight and losing the ability to speak. After German doctors confirmed that it was “highly plausible that it was a case of poisoning” members of Pussy Riot art-protest collective posted a tweet with a banner reading “We will punish those who poisoned Peter Verzilov.”
The question of punishing those responsible for poisoning Peter Verzilov is a question for the Government of Canada. That is because Mr. Verzilov has Canadian citizenship. Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said the situation was a "concern, obviously, given actions of recent months by the Russians in the UK.” Prime Minister Trudeau was referring to the attack with a nerve agent made by two of Putin’s agents, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, in Salisbury, England on March 4.
The Canadian government has a deplorable track record of bringing to account corrupt Russian officials who commit grave violations of human rights. Canada has the full legal power to sanction Putin and his gang of killers, torturers, and poisoners under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). But with a Russia-appeasement policy in place, Canada stubbornly refuses to enforce the Magnitsky Law against Putin and his officials. Not a single one of the kidnappers and hostage-keepers of Ukrainian political prisoners has been sanctioned by Canada. None of the organizers of the illegal election for Russian Federation president that was conducted in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea have been sanctioned by Canada.
Oleg Senstov has now been on full hunger strike for 129 days. Volodymyr Balukh has been on full (earlier partial) hunger strike for 185 days. Oleksandr Shumkov has been on full (earlier partial) hunger strike for 120 days. These men and at least 70 other Ukrainians – people of moral courage and loyal conviction – are being held hostage and tortured by the Russian regime of state terrorism. On September 18, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) appealed to Canada’s Members of Parliament to take a stronger stand. The UCC called for the “immediate utilization of the Magnitsky Act by Canada against Russian officials responsible for gross violations of human rights.”
Canada says it is a nation of laws. But if Canada doesn’t enforce the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) against the Russian officials responsible for the illegal imprisonment of over 70 Ukrainian citizens then Canada stops being a nation of laws.
The case of Peter Verzilov is the case of a Canadian citizen. If Canada does not take aggressive action against the Russian regime of state terrorism in order to preserve the health and security of the person of Peter Verzilov then no Canadian citizen is safe from Putin.