Vladimir Kara-Murza, a fierce Kremlin critic and opposition politician, was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Russian court on April 17 for treason and denigrating the military. This is the harshest possible sentence.
The judge also fined him of RUB400,000 ($4,880), banned him from engaging in journalism for seven years, and ruled to limit his freedom for six months upon his release from jail.
Kara-Murza's charges stem from a speech he made in March 2022 to the Arizona House of Representatives in the United States, where he denounced Russia's war in Ukraine. While he was in custody, investigators added the treason charges against him.
Russia adopted a law criminalising the spreading of "false information" about its military shortly after it sent troops into Ukraine. This law has been regularly used to stifle criticism of what the Kremlin calls "a special military operation."
Kara-Murza is a father of three and his family lives in Washington. He has spent years speaking out against President Vladimir Putin and has lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for purported human rights violations.
In a CNN interview broadcast hours before his arrest, Kara-Murza alleged that Russia was being run by a "regime of murderers." He also accused Moscow of bombing civilian targets in Ukraine, a charge which Russia has rejected. In his last speech to the court he claimed that his trial was a show trial, similar to those of the Stalinist era. He chose not to appeal to the court to acquit him, as he said he was “proud of everything I have done.”
Kara-Murza holds both Russian and British passports. The British government has condemned Kara-Murza's "politically motivated" conviction and sentencing, summoning the Russian ambassador to make their stance clear. Both the US and UK ambassadors to Russia were on the street outside the courthouse as the sentence was being read to protest against his incarceration. A total of 40 diplomats from 24 countries attended the trial, the court said in a statement.
After the sentence was read Kara-Murza smiled and said that he had scored “top marks” and took the extreme severity of the sentence as confirmation that he had been “doing something right.”
Kara-Murza has fallen suddenly ill twice in the past, in 2015 and 2017, due to suspected poisonings by the Russian security services. He fell into a coma on both occasions before eventually recovering. Russian authorities have denied involvement in these incidents. Kara-Murza's lawyers say he suffers from a serious nerve disorder called polyneuropathy as a result.