Thanks for the honesty, Russia. Screw you, too.

I won’t even try to detail all that is self-evidently wrong about l’affaire Pussy Riot – not only because it is self-evident, but because Burt already did a better job than I ever could. But, in keeping with the spirit of this sub-blog, I’d like to point out a bit of a Canadian twist on the situation. One of the members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, may be a Canadian permanent resident (though it is not clear if it is official yet):

There are conflicting accounts about whether Ms. Tolokonnikova is a Canadian permanent resident.

Her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, who went to high school in Canada, has dual citizenship.

Mr. Verzilov has told CBC that Ms. Tolokonnikova has Canadian residency status.

However, Ms. Tolokonnikova tried to downplay her Canadian connection in an interrogation video posted on YouTube that has been flagged by Toronto blogger Lisa Kirbie, a Canadian who is organizing support for Pussy Riot.

Naturally, with her connections to Canada, there is a bit of an outcry here and calls for the government to step in. Personally, I’d be all for this. I’d love to see some sort of Bobby Clarke diplomacy (not that it would actually happen). You might think this is a tad impertinent, but according to Russia, we’re already a hostile nation:

The interrogator then refers to the Canadian identification cards and says “These are the documents that indicate tight relationship of one of the accused in Tolokonnikova’s case with the foreign state, the Canadian one. [She] had serious views on living not in Russia, but in other state.”

Mr. Verzilov’s Canadian passport has also been shown on Russian TV to imply that he is acting on orders from a foreign country, the Washington Post reported.

So, Russian officials consider Canada to be an insidious foreign power trying to bring down the Putin regime. Oh, if only. I would absolutely love it if it turned out that the Canadian government was somehow behind Pussy Riot. But until that’s revealed, I’ll just take solace in the fact that Russia, apparently, has such a sour opinion of Canada. I think we can take that as a compliment.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Jonathan McLeod:

    Thanks for the heads-up about Warren Kinsella’s blog on Pussy Riot Canadian connexion. I just added my comment on his blog – thanking him for posting about Nadezhda and her Canadian residency. I took screen-grabs of her residency and Ontario Health cards back on 20 July, and immediately send them to DFAIT and to Baird, but no reply yet.

    Maybe now that trial is over and that Clinton has commented, Baird will say something. Not much, because our trade minister Ed Fast is so busy trying to do more business with Putinist Russia.

    Problem is that Nadezda’s Canadian residency is a double-whammy against her – it gains no assistance from our government, but provides excuse to Putinist Russia to mete out some punishment just because she has the aura of being a sold-out Russian bi-national. In the current climate in Russia, thats worse than being gay (and Russia is pretty homophobic).

    At the same time, I think that the media, movement and spirit for democracy, liberalism, transparency, human/gay/women’s rights, fair elections and anti-corruption are losing out to the well-funded Putinist media – and also to their friendly anti-Western allies in Canada, US and Europe – all acting as sounding board of hatred against foreigners and their Russian friends. Thats probably why Nadezhda may have been reluctant to admit that she even had a Canadian residency card – and why the proPutinist police were so eager to upload the video.

    All in all, the unfair trial and sentence of the Pussy Riot women isn’t a huge thing – no killings, no murders (unlike Sergei Magnitsky, Litvinenko and other dead victims of Putinist Russia), but it does reflect a huge new and depressing chasm between a better Russia that is open to the West, and the new Russia that is calling itself “Eurasianist”, and is best friends with repressive regimes like Belarus.

    Unfortunately, things may get worse before they get better.

    Thanks for publicizing Nadezhda’s possible status as Canadian resident. When I noticed that the Russian anti-Pussy Riot bloggers were uploading several Youtube versions (“Pussy Riot Whores!”, “Pussy Riot Criminals”, etc, etc) of her Canadian residency card and Ontario Health Card, I immediately send screen grabs to Canadian Embassy Moscow, Baird, and DFAIT’s Senior Desk Officer for Russia and asked them to provide any assistance they could.

    That was 20 July – still no reply from any of them.

    Several commenters do note that unlike her husband, Nadezhda isn’t a Canadian citizen so cannot expect any consular assistance.

    However, it appears that given the current foreigner-phobia in Putinist Russia and merely as somebody who may have residency in Canada, she may be subject to worse treatment because of those cards.

    She (and probably also Maria and Yekaterina just by inference of associating with foreigners) are held up by the Putinists, along with other dual-national Russians working for human rights, fair elections, or transparency.

    Now that the trial is over, they been sentenced to totally unfair jail terms AND that US Dept of State have just commented (, maybe Baird can say something?

    This is important because there is a HUGE movement of Putin-paid Russian media, and quasi-Putinist media (many sources in Canada and US) who are denigrating Pussy Riot women, as well as denigrating US, Canada and Europe.

    • Thanks for the comment, John. You are absolutely right that the Canadian connection is a double whammy. Personally, I don’t think the current government is particuarly good at helping out individual Canadians abroad (even ignoring the Omar Khadr situation), and I don’t think they’re inclined to do too much for Pussy Riot. I do hope I’m wrong, though.

      “…but it does reflect a huge new and depressing chasm between a better Russia that is open to the West, and the new Russia that is calling itself “Eurasianist”, and is best friends with repressive regimes like Belarus.”

      This seems spot-on, to me.

  2. The only good thing to come out of this is that the phrase Pussy Riot is being used all over the media. Too bad George Carlin’s not alive to witness it.

    • I plan to talk about them as much as I possibly can, if for that reason alone. I’m thinking the parents of my four-year-old’s friends will be less amused.

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