Pussy Riot leader’s Canadian connection evokes call for government support

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Is it possible that Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is a Canadian permanent resident?

A new YouTube video gives evidence that she might be.

The video, unearthed by political analyst Warren Kinsella, shows Tolokonnikova being interrogated by a Russian official.  At one point in the video (1.03), we see what appears to be Tolonikova's Canadian Permanent Resident (PR) Card which includes her picture, name, and birth date.

According to Alina Seagal of Yahoo! Canada News, the narrator of the video is saying that Russian officials believe that Tolokonnikova has permanent residency status in Canada.

Tolokonnikova, however, denies it, saying she has visited Canada in the past, but doesn't have Canadian residency.

"I have no plans to leave Russia just yet, I want to wait and see. For now, I'll fight," she says in Russian.

According to the Irish Examiner, Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, attended high school in Canada and holds dual Russian-Canadian citizenship.  Marriage to a Canadian citizen would undeniably give her a path to PR status and ultimately citizenship if she chose to seek it.

[ Related: Protesters across Canada to rally for Pussy Riot Friday ]

Kinsella, who posted the video on his personal blog, says that if Tolokonikova is Canadian, then John Baird, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, should step in and support her.

"You will clearly see that Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has a Canadian permanent resident card," Kinsella writes in his personal blog.

"The exchange with Tolokonnikova is inconclusive, and the video has been edited. However, at the very least, it raises two important questions: has the Canadian government provided this political prisoner with any support?  And why not, if not?

"These women have been behind bars for months, been sleep-deprived, been slowly starved, and have been denied an opportunity to see their children.  Their case has has attracted the attention of the world...after a trial that was a sham. John Baird, you profess to care about Canadians. What about the Canadian permanent resident in Pussy Riot?"

The Pussy Riot band, a punk collective from Moscow, sparked international attention after three of the group's women were jailed because of an anti-Vladimir Putin prank in Moscow's main cathedral in April.

Prosecutors have called for three-year prison sentences for the band members, who have already been in custody for five months.

The three women — Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 — were charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred; the charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

[ Related: Three faces behind the mask of Russia's Pussy Riot ]

A Moscow judge is expected to issue a verdict in the controversial case on Friday.

Tolokonnikova has received much attention for her striking looks. According to the Daily Mail, The prosecution often made her out to be the evil genius behind Pussy Riot, questioning witnesses who knew the other two women about whether their behaviour changed after they met her.

What is a permanent resident?:

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, a permanent resident is someone who has acquired permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not yet a Canadian citizen.

As a permanent resident, individuals and their dependants have the right:

  • To receive most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive, including health care coverage.
  • To live, work or study anywhere in Canada.
  • To apply for Canadian citizenship.
  • To protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.