Thu, 20 Jan 2022

MOSCOW, Russia: On November 15, Pyotr Verzilov, a leading member of the protest group Pussy Riot, and publisher of independent news site Mediazona, was added to the Russian government's wanted list.

The move is the latest in the state's efforts to pressure opposition activists and independent media in the country.

Verzilov was labelled a "foreign agent," in September, along with the media outlet and its chief editor, Sergei Smirnov.

Lawyer Leonid Solovyov said Verzilov was added to the Russian Interior Ministry's wanted list due to his failure to report his Canadian citizenship to authorities.

Verzilov will not face imprisonment for this offense and might be ordered to pay a fine or perform community service if convicted, Solovyov told Russian state news agency Tass.

Since 2014, Russians who fail to report their second citizenship could face fines of up to 200,000 rubles ($2,770) or be sentenced to perform 400 hours of community service.

The government recently designated several independent media outlets and journalists as "foreign agents" and raided the homes of prominent reporters.

The publisher of an outlet that released investigative reports on alleged corruption and abuses by top Russian officials and tycoons close to President Putin was classified an "undesirable" organization, while two other news outlets were closed after authorities accused them of being linked to such organizations.

The government has also applied pressure to local human rights groups, with at least two closing their operations in recent months to avoid further crackdowns.

Verzilov and three other Pussy Riot activists attracted international attention in 2018 when they ran on the pitch during the World Cup final in Moscow to protest police brutality, causing them to be sentenced to 15 days in prison.

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