Kremlin critic Kara-Murza’s sentence deemed ‘outrageously harsh’ by the EU

The European Union on Monday (17 April) condemned Russia’s sentencing of opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in jail on “politically motivated charges”.

“Today’s outrageously harsh court decision clearly demonstrates yet again the political misuse of judiciary in order to pressure activists, human rights defenders and any voices opposing Russia’s illegitimate war of aggression against Ukraine,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

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Russia on Monday sentenced Kara-Murza to 25 years in jail on charges including treason over criticism of the Ukraine offensive.

His high-profile trial is the latest in a string of cases against opposition voices in Russia, in a crackdown that has intensified since President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine last year.

Kremlin critic Kara-Murza goes on trial for treason

Russia on Monday (13 March) began the closed-door trial of jailed opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who faces more than two decades in prison on charges including treason for comments critical of the Kremlin.

Kara-Murza, 41, was found guilty of treason, spreading “false” information about the Russian army and being affiliated with an “undesirable organisation”, according to an AFP journalist present in the Moscow court.

He was sentenced to 25 years in a strict-regime penal colony following a closed-door trial.

Kara-Murza on Monday appeared in a cage for defendants in handcuffs, wearing blue jeans, a black T-shirt and grey blazer.

He was smiling and gestured to his supporters to write to him in prison.

In his last words in court last week, Kara-Murza said he stood by his political statements, including against Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

“I subscribe to every word that I have said, that I am incriminated for today,” Kara-Murza said in comments published by veteran journalist Alexei Venediktov.

“Not only do I not repent for any of it — I am proud of it,” he added.

Kara-Murza was detained in April last year on charges of spreading what the authorities consider false information about the Russian army over an address to members of the lower house of the Arizona legislature last March.

In August 2022, Kara-Murza was accused of being affiliated with an “undesirable organisation” for participating in a conference in support of political prisoners.

Then in October he was charged with treason over remarks critical of Moscow made at three public events abroad, his lawyer told state-run TASS news agency.

Health concerns

The opposition activist suffers from a nerve condition called polyneuropathy which his lawyers say was due to two poisoning attempts in 2015 and 2017.

The condition has worsened in prison, and he was too unwell to attend some of his hearings, his lawyers said.

Kara-Murza says he was poisoned twice because of his political activities, but he continued to spend long periods of time in Russia.

The Western-educated journalist was a close associate of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch turned Putin critic.

A Russian citizen by birth, Kara-Murza received British citizenship after moving to the United Kingdom with his mother when he was 15.

In October 2022, Kara-Murza was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Almost all of Putin’s best-known political opponents have either fled the country or are in jail.

Putin’s vocal domestic critic Alexei Navalny was arrested in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he was recovering from a poison attack that he blamed on the Kremlin.

In December last year opposition politician Ilya Yashin was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for spreading “false” information about Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

Serbian minister delivered transcripts of Russian opposition meetings in Belgrade

Serbia’s Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin submitted to the Kremlin transcripts of wiretapped conversations in Belgrade between Russian opposition members, Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza has announced. Andrei Pivovarov, the former director of the NGO, Open Russia, was arrested as a result.

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