In a warning to Kremlin critics everywhere, the prominent Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza has today been sentenced to 25 years in a penal colony by a Moscow court. His conviction is based on several charges, all of which he denies, including treason and ‘discreditation of the Russian Army’ – a move that has been internationally criticised as politically motivated.
Kara-Murza’s sentence is significant for being the longest to be handed down to critics of Vladimir Putin’s regime so far. Not even Alexei Navalny, so hated by Putin he famously refuses to ever call him by name, received a sentence that long – last year he began a nine-year term on the basis of trumped up fraud charges.
Kara-Murza, a dual British and Russian national, was arrested in April 2022 at his home in Moscow. Typical of the treatment meted out by the Russian justice system to political dissidents, he was officially charged with the vague offence of ‘disobeying the police’ during a raid on his home. Although not confirmed by the Russian authorities, many suspect the impetus for the raid was an interview Kara-Murza had given the day before to American broadcaster CNN, in which he said that Russia was being controlled by ‘a regime of murderers’.
Over the next six months, already held in pre-trial detention, Kara-Murza was further accused of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army and cooperating with an ‘undesirable’ NGO. Bearing all the hallmarks of politically-motivated targeting by the Kremlin, much murkiness surrounds the charge of treason levelled against Kara-Murza in October. According to an FSB source who spoke to Russian state news agency TASS, it was prompted by Kara-Murza’s ‘longtime cooperation with a Nato state’, although the source did not elaborate on what that actually meant.