A prominent pro-democracy activist and critic of the Kremlin has been sentenced to 25 years in a Russian penal colony for convicting the war in Ukraine after a show trial that has been compared to some of the most brutal abuses of the Stalin era.
Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who holds dual British and Russian citizenship and survived two poisonings at the hands of the authorities, was found guilty of treason after accusing Russia’s military forces of war crimes in a speech to US politicians last year.
The sentence is the longest yet delivered to a Russian opposition figure, and marks another sinister move in Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on dissent after his failed invasion of Ukraine.
Human rights lawyer Mikhail Biryukov compared the scene to the show trials of Joseph Stalin, adding that such a long sentence for treason was similar to that handed down to “hand-to-hand combat Nazi accomplices during World War II”.
Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza (pictured in court), who holds dual British and Russian citizenship and survived two poisonings at the hands of the authorities, was found guilty of treason.
The sentence is the longest yet handed down to a Russian opposition figure, and marks another sinister move in Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on dissent.
He was convicted after accusing Russian military forces of war crimes in a speech to US politicians last year. Pictured: British Ambassador Deborah Brunert (left) and US Ambassador Lynn Tracy (right)
The judge in Moscow took mere minutes to decide the case and demanded that Kara-Murza should be sent to a ‘strict regime correctional colony’, despite the fact that he had serious health concerns believed to be a legacy of the assassination attempts.
The father of three defiantly told the court he was proud of every word he said, adding that his only regret was his failure to convince enough people at home and abroad of Putin’s dangers.
“I know that the day will come when the darkness will dissipate over our country… and when those who ignited and unleashed this war will be recognized as criminals, not those who tried to stop it,” he said. The 41-year-old Cambridge University graduate, who moved his family to America, returned to Russia a year ago – and despite an intensifying crackdown on Putin’s critics, has continued to launch attacks on a war he has described as “illegal” while describing the war. Government as a “system of killers”.
He was arrested for “publishing fake ‘about the Russian military out of political hatred'” and then calling him a “foreign agent” a few days later.
His courage is remarkable. When I spoke with Kara-Murza at a conference on Putin hosted by former chess champion Garry Kasparov in New York in 2018, he told me of his determination to save his nation from tyranny.
If we do nothing, we will be complicit in the destruction of Russia. I do this for my kids. I want them to be able to live in a free and democratic Russia. He knew more than most the dangers of fighting Putin, but he seemed brave. He told me, with a wistful smile, that the attempted murders were “disturbing”:
In May 2015 — three months after his mentor and fellow politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin — Kara-Murza was hospitalized in Moscow when his heartbeat suddenly increased and he began vomiting after lunch in a restaurant.
The judge in Moscow took only minutes to decide the case and demanded that Kara-Murza should be sent to a ‘strict regime correctional colony’.
Kara-Murza (pictured in October, file photo), 41, a father of three and opposition politician with Russian and British passports, has spent years speaking out against President Vladimir Putin and lobbying Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and Russian individuals. alleged human rights violations
He was in a coma for a week and suffered kidney failure, saying after recovering in the US that it was hard to “believe this was an accident”. Tests found an excess of heavy metals in his blood, although the Russian authorities refused to investigate.
Two years later, he ended up in another coma on life support after a similar incident. Doctors and toxicology tests found his symptoms consistent with poisoning.
Bellingcat, the digital investigation group, found that in both cases he was ‘systematically tied up’ by security agents – including an individual who allegedly participated in the poisoning of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, who has also since been imprisoned by the Kremlin.
Subsequently, Kara-Murza transported his wife and children to Washington, telling me that he doubted he would survive a third attempt on his life. “I can’t stop eating and drinking,” he said. “All I can do is move my family away from Russia.”
Kara-Murza’s wife, Evgenia, said yesterday that the long prison term was a “confession” of her husband’s work. The sentence shows that they are very afraid of him and hate him very much because of his fortitude, courage and amazing courage.
However, concerns about his health have increased recently after he suffered from severe weight loss and numbness spread in his hands and feet. Kara Murza’s lawyer said that the activist suffers from neuropathy caused by damage to the peripheral nerves in his extremities as a result of the toxic attacks.
Navalny, who was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent three years ago, said in a statement yesterday that Kara-Murza is being persecuted “in revenge for the fact that he did not die” after being poisoned.
Canadian Ambassador to Russia Alison LeClair, British Ambassador to Russia Deborah Brunert, and US Ambassador to Russia Lynn Tracy address the media after hearing the case of Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was convicted of treason and defamation of the Russian army. , in Moscow, Russia, April 17, 2023
Kara Murza’s wife Evgenia (pictured) said yesterday that the long prison sentence was a ‘confession’ of her husband’s work
He added that the trial was “illegal, unscrupulous and simply fascist”. Navalny also fell seriously ill, with stomach pains and weight loss, after being sent to a maximum security penal colony after being arrested upon his return to Russia in January 2021.
A member of his anti-corruption foundation said, “It’s kind of a slow, systematic killing, happening before our eyes right now, and the whole world is watching.”
Kara-Murza became active in politics after meeting Nemtsov, the former Deputy Prime Minister. The two co-wrote a plea for Putin to resign in 2010, and then became key voices in the global campaign to impose “Magnitsky sanctions” on officials linked to human rights abuses.
The penalties are named after Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in a Russian prison after exposing a £185m tax fraud – and imposed on the judge in the Kara-Murza case for his role in sentencing the lawyer.
When we last met, this likable and brave man told me he was ‘very optimistic’ about Russia’s future, explaining how he saw flying as a form of defeat. But that was before the war, before the Kremlin terror ramped up — and before he was sentenced to prison.
The activist had predicted his fate to court. He said, “I know the verdict.” I knew it a year ago when I saw people in black uniforms and black masks running behind my car in the rear view mirror. This is the price of speaking in Russia today.