The United States condemns the sentencing of pro-democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison for speaking out against the Russian government’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The fact that Mr. Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in response to public remarks highlights the Russian government’s determination to stamp out all opposition to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Kara-Murza was arrested in April 2022 and held in detention until his trial. He was accused of spreading false information about the Russian military in Ukraine, including accusing it of committing war crimes. He was later charged with treason for making speeches critical of Putin and the war. He was also charged with being a member of an "undesirable organization."
A top advisor to slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, Kara-Murza has courageously defended human rights in Russia and has been repeatedly targeted for reprisal by Russian authorities. He suffered severe poisonings in 2015 and 2017, which he believes were directly related to his political activities.
Most prominent dissidents and members of the political opposition are now either in jail or in exile amid Putin’s crackdown on regime critics. "This sentence is comparable only with times of Stalin," Yan Rachinsky, head of the Russian human rights organization Memorial, told the Russian news site Meduza. "It's especially monstrous that the sentence is for words. It is, in fact, a symptom of the fact that the authorities are afraid of words, they are trying to shut the mouths of anyone who stands against them."
In a statement, Principal Deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel renewed the United States’ call for Mr. Kara-Murza’s release, as well as the release of other political prisoners in Russia, currently estimated at more than 550.
“We reaffirm our solidarity with Mr. Kara-Murza and all brave advocates of a brighter future for Russia who are held unjustly, including Aleksey Navalny, Ilya Yashin, and many others who serve their country and their fellow citizens at great personal cost by boldly standing up for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said spokesperson Patel. “We join their families, friends, and supporters in Russia and around the world in demanding their immediate release.”