A leading Kremlin critic detained in Russia has been granted honorary Canadian citizenship in a bid to help him win his freedom, prompting calls for the United States and Britain to play their part in boosting his chances of escaping alive. .
Vladimir Kara-Murza, a close ally of murdered opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for treason on April 17 this year after surviving two poisonings that left him in a coma in both 2015 and 2017.
The 41-year-old British-Russian citizen also lived in Washington for at least a decade, and his wife Evgenia Kara-Murza still resides in the United States with their three children, ages 11, 14 and 17.
After flying back to Russia when Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine broke out last year to oppose the war, he was detained on charges of treason and spreading false information about the Russian military through a process he described as a “show trial.”
Kara-Murza’s close friend and activist Bill Browder told Dailymail.com that the Canadian parliament’s unanimous decision to grant him honorary citizenship on Thursday is “really important” to his chances of being released alive.
Muscovite Vladimir Kara-Murza unanimously obtained honorary Canadian citizenship on Thursday.
The Kremlin critic, 41, faced what he called a “show trial” in Moscow before being jailed for treason on April 17 this year.
British-American businessman Bill Browder has dubbed Kara-Murza “the Russian equivalent of Nelson Mandela” as he campaigns for Britain and the United States to do more to save the dissident.
Browder, an American-British businessman, added that this privilege had previously only been granted to seven people, including Nelson Mandela.
Describing Kara-Murza as “the Russian equivalent of Nelson Mandela”, he explained: “He has been given this really important recognition which will hopefully signal to the Russians that they should not kill him because he is an important person who could be used to negotiate “. with in the future.
‘There will be a time when there will be a negotiation about different things between Putin and the West.
“By giving him this status, by officially recognizing his importance in this way, it means that his name will be high on the list when these negotiations and discussions take place.”
The 59-year-old founder of the investment fund Hermitage Capital Management said Kara-Murza has received “the longest sentence of any political prisoner in Russia” because he has been “very effective in upsetting Putin.”
“They tried to kill him twice with poison in 2015 and 2017, so (in the West) he has really been recognized as the purest and most beloved Russian opposition politician to Putin,” Browder said.
“He is the kind of person the West wants to lead Russia – when Putin is away or when the war is over – to get it out of this terrible place it is in.”
Kara-Murza was also a key activist in getting Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012, a bill intended to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Browder’s company lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, in prison in 2009. .
The Moscow-born politician was also instrumental in the passage of Canada’s equivalent Magnitsky Act in 2017.
“Vladimir has opposed war, criticized Putin, and been responsible for the passage of the Magnitsky Act in 35 countries,” Browder said.
He added that the 25-year sentence Kara-Murza is serving in a prison north of Moscow could be a “death sentence” because he has already “lost more than 50 pounds” and his health remains severely affected by the poisonings.
His wife Evgenia also told him Reuters in May that Russian authorities have been psychologically torturing him by denying him calls with his children.
For this reason, Browder is among those urgently campaigning for the United States and Britain to follow Canada’s example.
In the United States, this means adding him to the list of people officially recognized as illegally detained under the Levinson Act, which was used to free American basketball player Brittney Griner from a Russian jail last year.
“This law says that if you get a special designation, the United States government will use all of its resources to free you,” Browder said.
“Therefore, we are carrying out in parallel a campaign to have Vladimir Kara-Murza declared illegally detained in the United States, so that the United States government joins this effort.
‘Recently, 81 members of Congress wrote a letter to the Secretary of State asking him to obtain that designation.
“Canada doesn’t have a Levinson Act, so honorary citizenship was the closest we’re going to get, which is very helpful.”
The fact that there are two people imprisoned in Russia who are already listed as illegally detained – Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich – could be preventing the United States from adding Kara-Murza to the list, according to Browder.
Kara-Murza gave evidence at his ‘show trial’ from inside a cage of defendants at the Basmanny court in Moscow in late 2022.
The dissident’s wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, said Russian authorities have been psychologically torturing him by denying him calls with his children.
Kara-Murza has lost more than 50 pounds during about six weeks in prison, and his friends worry he may not live to be released.
British-American businessman and political activist Bill Browder is a close friend of Kara-Murza and the two keep in touch through prison letters.
The United States Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, the British Ambassador to Russia, Deborah Bronnert, and the Canadian Ambassador to Russia, Alison LeClaire, spoke to the media outside the Moscow City Court following the verdict in the Kara-Murza case.
Kara-Murza is serving the longest sentence of any political prisoner in Russia, according to Browder
Evgenia Kara-Murza is worried about her husband’s health while he remains imprisoned in Russia
Meanwhile, no other Canadian or British citizens are currently known to be illegally detained in Russia.
“Thursday’s move by Canada lights the fire under the British government’s dam, because it needs to be more active,” Browder said.
“If Canadians are willing to make him an honorary citizen, then the question arises: what is the British government doing for him, when he is a legitimate British citizen?”
The UK Foreign Office (FCDO) has imposed sanctions on three people involved in Kara-Murza’s arrest and two members of the FSB, successor to the KGB, who followed him before the poisonings.
Those sanctioned for their involvement in Kara-Murza’s arrest have been identified as Elena Lenskaya, the judge who approved the arrest, and investigators Denis Kolesnikov and Andrei Zadachin.
FSB agents Alexander Samofal and Konstantin Kudryavtsev were also sanctioned, with the FCDO saying they were part of an “operational team” that followed Kara-Murza on multiple trips before he was poisoned.
The FCDO and the Canadian government have been contacted for comment.