“Others will come to take our place.”

Story of Pulitzer winner Vladimir Kara-Murza, an oppositionist imprisoned in Russia: Part 1

Foreign Policy Brief #143 | By: Yelena Korshunov| May 30, 2024
Featured Photo: www.independent.co.uk

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Russian publicist, politician, and historian Vladimir Kara-Murza was awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for comments in his articles published in The Washington Post. In its statement on May 6th the Pulitzer Committee said that Kara-Murza “won for passionate columns written at great personal risk from his prison cell, warning of the consequences of dissent in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and insisting on a democratic future for his country.”

The death of Alexei Navalny, a major figure of Russian political opposition,  right before the president’s election in Russia, strengthened voices demanding to free the other political imprisoners. One of them is Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been languishing in jail in Russia since April 2022 for treason after he spoke out against the war on Ukraine. Kara-Murza survived two poisonings in 2015 and 2017, and in 2023 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the longest term an oppositionist had been sentenced to in Russia. Despite the fact that Kara-Murza was diagnosed with polyneuropathy of the legs, which may be a consequence of assassination attempts. In September 2023the court sent him to a correctional colony in Omsk (city in Siberia) as they did to Aleksei Navalny. And exactly the same way they led Navalny to his death, at the beginning of 2024 officials placed Kara-Murza in a single cell, isolating him from any communication with other prisoners.

In April, 2023 a number of charges were brought against Kara-Murza. He stood accused of treason for public speeches in the US and Europe. He spoke about “state terror” for political reasons, election fraud, and human rights violations in Russia. He also called Russia an aggressor country in the war with Ukraine. By these actions, according to Russia’s investigation, he “created threats to the external security and territorial integrity” of the Russian Federation. Investigators insisted that one of the events at which Kara-Murza harmed Russia “out of selfish motives” was the ceremony of presenting the Helsinki Committee award to political prisoner Yuri Dmitriev

Treason is the most severe, but not the only charge. Kara-Murza was also accused in spreading “fakes” about the army and for collaborating with the undesirable organization Free Russia Foundation. The foundation was declared undesirable in 2019. In 2021, according to investigators, Kara-Murza organized an annual conference on political prisoners at the Sakharov Center — with money from Free Russia.

On March 15, 2022, Vladimir Kara-Murza spoke about what was going on in Russia at the Arizona House of Representatives. Russia investigated his speech and then  announced that Kara-Murza “deliberately spread false information about the use of the Russian Armed Forces to bomb residential areas, maternity hospitals, hospitals and schools” in Ukraine.

Later, a second criminal case was opened for work in a “foreign or international NGO [Non-Government Organization], in respect of which a decision was made to recognize it as undesirable.” Kara-Murza was accused of collaborating with the undesirable organization Free Russia Foundation. Treason was the third and most serious charge, the sanction of which provides for up to 20 years in prison. Kara-Murza is charged with three episodes of treason: speeches at the NATO Assembly, at the Helsinki Committee in Oslo and in the USA.

During the announcement of the verdict, it was noted that Kara-Murza has dual citizenship: in addition to Russia, he is a British citizen and has a residence permit in the United States. The announcement was attended by 40 diplomats from 25 countries, including the US, Great Britain, France, Canada, and Germany. The imprisoned politician’s wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza told the BBC she is sure that “sooner or later Volodya [Vladimir Kara-Murza] would be accused of high treason.”

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