New York: A Russian court has convicted top opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr of treason for publicly denouncing Moscow’s war in Ukraine and sentenced him to 25 years in prison as part of the Kremlin’s relentless crackdown on critics of the invasion.
The political activist and journalist, who twice survived poisonings he blamed on Russian authorities, has rejected the charges against him as punishment for standing up to President Vladimir Putin and likened the proceedings to the show trials under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Human rights organizations and Western governments denounced the verdict and demanded his release. Amnesty International declared the 41-year-old to be a prisoner of conscience.
The charges against Kara-Murza, a dual Russian-British citizen who has been behind bars since his arrest a year ago, stem from a March 2022 speech to the Arizona House of Representatives in which he denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as other speeches abroad.
“There are millions of people in my country who fundamentally reject and fundamentally disagree with everything that the Putin regime represents and stands for, from the kleptocracy and thievery to the abuses and the repressions and the crimes against humanity that are being committed,” Kara-Murza said in his 17-minute speech to lawmakers in Arizona.
Kara-Murza was initially only charged with spreading “false information” about the military, but later the authorities added charges of working with an “undesirable” organization — also a criminal offense — and treason.