By Polina Nikolskaya
MOSCOW (Reuters) – One of Russia’s best known human rights activists, Pyotr Verzilov, said on Monday he would not be deterred from returning to the country despite being placed on an official wanted list.
“I am definitely going to come back,” Verzilov told Reuters from Greece after becoming the latest in a growing list of human rights and opposition figures to be placed on the wanted list.
An entry in a database published by the interior ministry said he was wanted in connection with an unspecified criminal case. Last year the state Investigations Committee said it had launched a case against him for not declaring that he had acquired double citizenship by getting a Canadian passport.
Verzilov, who also publishes an independent news website called Mediazone, said he did not believe the charge against him carried a prison sentence.
“But it is clear that the ingenuity of the security establishment is high at the moment and they can invent anything out of the blue,” he said.
Verzilov, an ally of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny, is well known in Russia for protest actions including a pitch invasion at the World Cup final in Moscow in 2018.
The same year, he was treated in Germany for suspected poisoning after he fell ill suddenly in Russia and temporarily lost his sight, hearing and the ability to walk.
Other names recently added to the wanted list include Navalny’s close ally Lyubov Sobol and a lawyer who defended Navalny’s movement, Ivan Pavlov.
Verzilov was separately designated by the justice ministry in September as a “foreign agent”, a label applied by the authorities to journalists, news organisations and others deemed to be engaging in political activity with the help of foreign funding.
(Additional reporting by Anton Zverev; writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Heavens)