Putin critic jailed for 25 years for treason, harshest sentence for years

  • Politician Kara-Murza was accused of treason
  • He denied wrongdoing and said he stood by his actions
  • He spoke out strongly against the war in Ukraine and against Putin
  • It forced the West to impose economic sanctions on Russia
  • London and Washington are demanding his release

MOSCOW, April 17 (Reuters) – Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed for a quarter of a century by a Moscow court on Monday in the harshest sentence since Russia invaded Ukraine for treason and other crimes. He refused.

Kara-Murza, 41, a father of three and an opposition politician who holds Russian and British passports, has for years spoken out against President Vladimir Putin and urged Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for human rights abuses.

Prosecutors, who had asked the court to jail him for 25 years, accused him of treason and insulting the Russian military after criticizing what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

In a CNN broadcast interview hours before his arrest, Kara-Murza had accused Russia of running a “reign of murderers”. He has used speeches in the United States and across Europe to accuse Russia of bombing civilian targets in Ukraine, a charge Moscow has denied.

“Russia will be free,” a well-known opposition slogan, said Kara-Murza, listening to the proceedings calmly inside a glass courtroom cage wearing a jacket and jeans after hearing the sentence on Monday.

In her final speech in court last week, Kara-Murza compared her trial, held behind closed doors, to Joseph Stalin’s program interrogations in the 1930s. He refused to ask the court to release him, saying he was proud to stand by everything he said.

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“Criminals should repent of what they have done. On the other hand, I am in jail for my political views. I know that the day will come when darkness will lift in our country,” he said.

One of her lawyers, Maria Eismond, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Kara-Murza’s legal team would appeal Monday’s verdict, which she said was marred by several serious legal violations.

The messenger was summoned

In London, Britain said it protested what it called the Russian ambassador “politically motivated”.

Outside the court in Moscow, British Ambassador Deborah Bronnert told reporters that Kara-Murza had been convicted for speaking out bravely against Russia’s war in Ukraine and demanded his immediate release.

US Ambassador Lynn Tracy, speaking to him, said Kara-Murza’s sentence was an attempt to silence the opposition.

“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 last year, Russia introduced sweeping wartime censorship laws that have been used to silence dissent across society.

“Defaming” the military is currently punishable by up to five years in prison, while deliberately spreading false information is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Casting the conflict in Ukraine as an existential struggle with the West, pro-Russian politicians say unity across society is vital. Russian citizens questioning Moscow’s actions in Ukraine have described them as trying to undermine the military campaign as part of a pro-Western fifth column.

Twice, in 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza fell ill suddenly after what she said was poisoning by Russian security services, falling into a coma before eventually recovering on both occasions.

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Russian officials were not involved in these incidents. As a result, Kara-Murza’s lawyers say she suffers from a severe nerve disorder called polyneuropathy.

Reported by Reuters

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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