In this file photo taken on July 31, 2018 Member of the Pussy Riot punk group Pyotr Verzilov gestures as he walks with police during a court hearing at a courthouse in Moscow, as members of the Russian protest-art group are accused of disturbing public order after invading the pitch during the World Cup final in Moscow. Image Credit: AFP

Moscow: Pyotr Verzilov, a Pussy Riot activist whose demonstrations against the Russian government include running onto the field during the World Cup final, has been hospitalised in Moscow in what the protest group suspects was a poisoning attack, according to local news media reports.

Veronika Nikulshina, a fellow Pussy Riot member, told the Meduza newspaper that Verzilov lost his sight, speech and mobility. He was being treated on Wednesday in the toxicology wing of a hospital, she said.

She said he started feeling ill shortly after a court hearing Tuesday and lay down to rest at 6pm. Two hours later, he told Nikulshina, who the newspaper described as his partner, that he was starting to lose his sight.

Paramedics arrived as his condition rapidly worsened, and he told them he had not eaten anything or taken drugs. He started convulsing, and in the ambulance began “babbling,” Nikulshina said.

“He fell into such a half-asleep, half-unconscious state that he stopped responding to me and didn’t even recognise me anymore,” she told Meduza.

She said the doctors initially “didn’t turn up anything bad,” but he was moved to the toxicology wing around 1am. Wednesday. Hospital staff would not tell her if they had made a diagnosis, she said.

“The doctor only said that his condition was serious, but his behaviour was improving and he’d started responding to his own name,” Nikulshina said.

Verzilov and Nikulshina were two of the four Pussy Riot activists who interrupted the World Cup final on July 15. Each was sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Pussy Riot, widely known as a punk band unsparing in its criticism of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, gained notoriety in 2012 when three of its members were sentenced to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism, leading to worldwide protests.

Verzilov, a longtime activist, is a publisher of Mediazona, a website focused on criminal justice and politics in Russia. He has a daughter with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, another Pussy Riot member.

On Wednesday, Pussy Riot called him “our friend, brother, comrade.”

On Sunday, Verzilov and Nikulshina were arrested separately in Moscow. The group wrote on Twitter that the police said Nikulshina had refused a “terrorist check” of her car, an accusation the group denied.

“This is an act of revenge for our action at the World Cup,” the group said of Nikulshina’s arrest.

It did not say why Verzilov had been arrested.