- Politician Kara Murza was accused of treason
- He denied any wrongdoing and said he stood by his actions
- He spoke out strongly against the Ukraine-Putin war
- It pressured the West to impose sanctions on Russia
- London and Washington are calling for his release
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Moscow court on Monday jailed prominent Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza for a quarter of a century, the harshest sentence since Russia invaded Ukraine, after finding him guilty of treason and other crimes. he refused.
Kara-Murza, 41, a father of three and opposition politician with Russian and British passports, has spent years speaking out against President Vladimir Putin and pressing Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and Russian individuals for alleged human rights abuses.
Prosecutors, who had asked the court to imprison him for 25 years, had accused him of treason and defaming the Russian army after he criticized what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In a CNN interview broadcast hours before his arrest, Kara-Murza claimed that Russia is being run by a “regime of killers”. He has also used speeches in the United States and across Europe to accuse Russia of bombing civilian targets in Ukraine, a charge Moscow has denied.
After hearing his verdict on Monday, Kara-Murza, who was quietly listening to the proceedings inside a glass courtroom cage wearing a jacket and jeans, said “Russia will be liberated,” a well-known opposition slogan.
In his final speech to the court last week, Kara-Murza compared his trial, which was held behind closed doors, to Joseph Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s. He had refused to ask the court to acquit him, saying that he stood by and was proud of everything he said.
He said, “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.”
One of his lawyers, Maria Eismont, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Kara-Murza’s legal team would appeal Monday’s ruling, which it said was marred by several serious legal violations.
summoned the envoy
Britain said in London it had summoned the Russian ambassador to protest what it called a “politically motivated” condemnation.
Outside the court in Moscow, British Ambassador Deborah Brunert told reporters that Kara-Murza had been punished for speaking out against Russia’s war in Ukraine and demanded his immediate release.
Speaking at her side, US Ambassador Lynn Tracy said Kara-Murza’s conviction was an attempt to silence dissent.
“Criminalizing criticism of government action is a sign of weakness, not strength,” Tracy said.
Shortly after sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February of last year, Russia introduced sweeping wartime censorship laws that have been used to silence dissenting voices throughout society.
Currently “defaming” the military can be punished with up to five years in prison, while willfully spreading false information can carry a 15-year prison sentence.
Russian pro-government politicians describe the conflict in Ukraine as an existential one with the West, and say unity across society is vital. They described Russian citizens who question Moscow’s actions in Ukraine as part of a pro-Western fifth column trying to undermine the military campaign.
Twice, in 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza fell suddenly ill in what he said was poisoning by Russian security services, and on both occasions she slipped into a coma before finally recovering.
The Russian authorities denied involvement in those incidents. Kara-Murza’s lawyers say that as a result, he suffers from a serious neurological disorder called polyneuropathy.
Reported by Reuters
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