Who is Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza?
Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza was convicted of treason by a Moscow court on Monday and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Who is he?
Kara-Murza, 41, is a historian, journalist and opposition politician who holds Russian and British passports and studied in England at Cambridge University. He was a close associate of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure who was assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015, and continued to speak out against President Vladimir Putin despite the mounting risks.
Twice, in 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza suddenly fell ill in what he said were poisonings by the Russian security services, on both occasions falling into a coma before eventually recovering. Russian authorities denied involvement in the incidents. Kara-Murza’s lawyers say that as a result, he suffers from a serious nerve disorder called polyneuropathy.
Kara-Murza was one of a small number of opposition politicians who remained active in Russia after it invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and publicly condemned the war in defiance of new censorship laws.
Kara-Murza was arrested in April 2022, hours after CNN broadcast an interview in which he said Russia was being run by a “regime of murderers”.
He was declared a “foreign agent” and accused of spreading false information about the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine in connection with a speech he had given the previous month in the Arizona House of Representatives, where he said Putin was “dropping cluster bombs on residential areas, mothers’ homes, hospitals, and schools”.
In July he was additionally charged over his involvement with two foreign-based opposition forums that are labelled by the Russian state as “undesirable”. Finally, on Oct. 6, he was charged with treason over public speeches he had made in Lisbon, Helsinki and Washington.
Prosecutors requested a 25-year jail term.
How did he respond to the charges?
The trial was held behind closed doors but Kara-Murza’s wife and lawyer released a copy of a speech he delivered to the court. He said he had done nothing wrong and compared the proceedings to Josef Stalin’s show trials of the 1930s.
“Criminals are supposed to repent of what they have done. I, on the other hand, am in prison for my political views. I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate,” said Kara-Murza, who has described the entire case against him as being based on “political vengeance”.