Russia opens criminal case against activist for failing to declare dual nationality

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian investigators on Tuesday opened a criminal case against Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and associate of the Pussy Riot punk group, for having allegedly failed to declare his dual Canadian citizenship.

The announcement came as Verzilov, publisher of the private Mediazona news outlet, had just been released following a 15-day stint in jail after he was found guilty of petty hooliganism for swearing in public.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said it had discovered Verzilov held a Canadian passport while conducting a search linked to his participation in unauthorised protests last year.

The Investigative Committee said Verzilov had not notified the Russian authorities that he holds dual citizenship, an offence that can lead to a fine or compulsory labour.

Verzilov wrote on Twitter that he was already being questioned by investigators and called the criminal case against him “crazy”.

Russia in 2014 adopted legislation requiring its nationals to declare their dual citizenship or face criminal prosecution. At the time critics said the law would place people with two passports under suspicion and expressed fear that its aim was to whip up nationalist fervour.

Verzilov was one of four Pussy Riot activists who ran onto the pitch wearing police uniforms during the final of the 2018 World Cup at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, a stunt they said aimed to draw attention to human rights abuses in Russia.

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