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Russian dissident remains in prison on trumped-up charges

Vladimir Kara-Murza is one of the most well-known opposition politicians in Russia. Like Alexei Navalny, and dozens of other opposition politicians in Russia, Kara-Murza is in prison. Right now, he is awaiting his day in court after being accused of high treason. He is one of hundreds of documented political prisoners in Russia.

The World

Vladimir Kara-Murza, 41, has never been someone to mince words.

He is a seasoned Russian politician who has been speaking up against President Vladimir Putin for years.

“This regime that is in power in our country today, it’s not just corrupt — it’s not just kleptocratic, it’s not just authoritarian, it is a regime of murderers,” Kara-Murza told CNN about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

That interview aired on April 11. The next day, Vladimir Kara-Murza was arrested in Moscow.

Almost 20,000 Russians have been detained for protesting the war in Ukraine, according to OVD-info, a nongovernmental organization in Russia. Many of them are ordinary citizens who decided to speak up against their government. They've ended up in a jail cell, sometimes just overnight, or maybe for a couple of weeks. But there are also hundreds of dissenters behind bars in Russia, like Kara-Murza, one of the Kremlin's fiercest critics.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price responded to news of his arrest.

“This is someone who has previously endured arrests, and even near-fatal poisonings, in connection with nothing more than his peaceful activities on behalf of the human rights and civil liberties of the Russian people,” Price said.

Vladimir Kara-Murza has been in prison for more than six months now, and he is facing multiple fabricated criminal charges, his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, told The World.

“As the government calls it, disseminating fake news about the Russian armed forces in the country, but of course, it was for denouncing the crimes committed by the Russian forces in Ukraine,” she said.

Evgenia Kara-Murza said that Russia has criminalized any anti-war speech.

The courts are citing one speech that Vladimir Kara-Murza made in the Arizona House of Representatives back in March. He said: “Today, the whole world sees what the Putin regime is doing to Ukraine. The cluster bombs on residential areas, the bombings of maternity wards, and hospitals and schools, the war crimes, these are war crimes that are being committed by the dictatorial regime in the Kremlin.”

Evgnenia Kara-Murza said that her husband is now facing a long prison sentence because of his stance.

“He was charged of high treason by the Russian authorities. So now, he’s still kept at [a] Moscow state pretrial detention center, waiting [for] trial, and I think he’s going to be moved to a solitary cell; he’s now facing up to 24 years in a strict regime prison.”

Vladimir Kara-Murza has given speeches about human rights abuses in Russia, state suppression of information, and he’s been clear about opposing the war in Ukraine.

“Every single thing that he says is truth. The problem is, is that for the current Russian regime, this equals treachery, this equals high treason, because if anyone contradicts the official narrative, that is seen as treason,” Evgnenia Kara-Murza said.

The Kremlin sees no room in today’s Russia for people like Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Sergei Davidis is a human rights advocate and a longtime colleague and friend of Vladimir Kara-Murza.

“Russian authorities want to suppress every free voice and since Vladimir is very influential person, he’s voice is very loud, it can be explained why they decided to prosecute him,” Davidis said.

Until recently, Davidis was the head of the independent political prisoner support group, Memorial – one of the organizations that won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. 

Davidis, speaking from Vilnius, Lithuania, said that over the years, the Kremlin has cracked down on free speech.

“Our authorities have accepted a huge bunch of new repressive criminal laws, we got [these] new articles of criminal code, prosecuting for anti-war position only in March.”

Davidis said that about 200 people have been prosecuted under Russia’s new war censorship laws — and that Vladimir Kara-Murza is one of them.

“[The] number of political prisoners is growing, and even [at] a higher rate than it used to. But generally, as an institution, politically motivated prosecution is aimed at the control over society.”

Evgenia Kara-Murza said that she is not going to remain silent, though. While Vladimir Kara-Murza remains in prison, she has been speaking up for him and other political prisoners in Russia.

“I know what the Russian regime is trying to do. They are trying to silence such voices as Vladimir’s, or Alexei Navalny’s, or Ilya Yashin, anyone who’s brave enough to speak up. I’m not going to let them do this.”

Evgenia Kara-Murza said that she was reluctant to take on the role of continuing her husband’s work. 

“He knows that I never wanted this, I was never interested in any public work, in any public advocacy, so I know that he appreciates me doing it.”

Evgenia Kara-Murza said that she fears that Vladimir Kara-Murza will remain in prison for as long as Putin is in power.

But at the same time, “We all know how every single authoritarian or totalitarian regime ends in the end. Dictators all believe themselves to be invincible somehow, to be eternal, but they all collapse in the end.”

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