Russian opposition figure jailed for 25 years

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Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza has been sentenced to 25 years in jail in Russia for charges linked to his criticism of the war in Ukraine.

He was found guilty of treason, spreading “false” information about the Russian army and being affiliated with an “undesirable organisation”.

The Russian-British former journalist and politician is the latest of several Putin opponents to have been arrested or forced to flee Russia.

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He has denied all of the charges.

Mr Kara-Murza, 41, has spent years speaking out against Russian President Vladimir Putin and, alongside the war in Ukraine, has also been critical of the government’s crackdown on dissent.

Last week, he said in a statement: “I subscribe to every word that I have said… Not only do I not repent any of this, I am proud of it.”

“I know that the day will come when the darkness engulfing our country will clear,” he added in remarks posted online. “Our society will open its eyes and shudder when it realises what crimes were committed in its name.”
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Mr Kara-Murza’s 25-year sentence, which has been widely condemned, was the maximum sought by prosecutors and is the longest sentence an opposition figure has received since the war in Ukraine began.

It took only minutes for the judge to rule on his case – sometimes the delivery of verdicts and announcing sentencing can take a long time in Russian courts.

The judge said Mr Kara-Murza would serve his time in a “strict regime correctional colony” and that he would be fined 400,000 roubles ($4,900; £4,000).

The tough sentence is a sign that in today’s Russia the authorities are not only determined to silence critics but also to neutralise anything or anyone they believe represents a threat to the political system.

The BBC was not allowed access into the courtroom and only a handful of journalists from Russian state media were granted access, along with the defendant’s mother and lawyer.

Instead, reporters and foreign ambassadors crowded into a separate room to view proceedings on two TV screens.

Speaking outside the court after the sentencing, his lawyer Maria Eismon, said the sentence was “terrifying” but also a “high appreciation” of her client’s work.

“When [Mr Kara-Murza] heard it was 25 years, he said: my self-esteem even rose, I realised I’d been doing everything right!” she said.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny also weighed in on Mr Kara-Murza’s sentencing, calling it “revenge” by the Kremlin “for the fact that he did not die at one time” after he allegedly survived two poisonings by Russian authorities.

Mr Kara-Murza played a key role in persuading Western governments to sanction Russian officials for human rights abuses and corruption.

He was arrested a year ago in Moscow, initially for disobeying a police officer. More serious charges were levelled at him once he was in custody.

Mr Kara-Murza’s case was partly based on a speech he made to politicians in the US last year, where he said Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine with cluster bombs in residential areas and “the bombing of maternity hospitals and schools”.

Those claims have been independently documented – but deemed false by Russian investigators who said the defence ministry did “not permit the use of banned means… of conducting war” and insisted Ukraine’s civilian population was not a target.

Another charge stemmed from an event for political prisoners at which Mr Kara-Murza referred to what investigators called Russia’s “supposedly repressive policies”.


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