Russia sentences opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in penal colony

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Kara-Murza addressing the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Canada in 2018.
Image: Mykola Swarnyk.

On Monday, a Moscow, Russia judge sentenced political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in a "strict regime correctional colony" on charges of treason, associating himself with an "undesirable" entity, and disseminating false information about the military. He was also fined 400,000 rubles (~US$4,900).

Kara-Murza is a dual citizen of Russia and the United Kingdom.

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office summoned Russian Ambassador Andrey Kelin in response. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: "Vladimir Kara-Murza bravely denounced Russia's invasion of Ukraine for what it was — a blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter".

UN Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said the conviction was "another blow to the rule of law and civic space in the Russian Federation."

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also condemned the verdict, which the judge took minutes to issue.

Diplomats and foreign journalists were not allowed into the courtroom, but watch the proceedings on screens from in another room at the courthouse.

"I know that the day will come when the darkness engulfing our country will dissipate," Kara-Murza said in court. "This day will come as inevitably as spring comes to replace even the frostiest winter."

Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the case to the Associated Press.

A speech Kara-Murza delivered in Arizona, United States in March 2022 was involved in the charges. During this speech, he told Arizona legislators Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine, including "bombing of maternity hospitals and schools". According to the BBC, his allegations were independently verified, but Russia deemed them "false information".

Russia instituted criminal penalties for the dissemination of false information about its military days after invading Ukraine.

Poisoned in 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza was an associate of Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in 2015.