MOSCOW – Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed for 25 years by a Moscow court on Monday, the harshest sentence of its kind since Russia invaded Ukraine, after being convicted of treason and other offences in a trial he said was politically-motivated.
Kara-Murza, 41, a father of three and an opposition politician who holds Russian and British passports, spoke out against President Vladimir Putin for years and successfully lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for purported human rights violations.
State prosecutors, who had requested a 25-year term, had accused him of treason, among other offences, and of discrediting the Russian military after spreading “knowingly false information” about its conduct in what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
His sentence was the harshest handed down to a Kremlin critic since Putin came to power in 1999.
In a CNN interview broadcast hours before his arrest, Kara-Murza, whose family home is in Washington and who had returned to Moscow to campaign against the war, alleged that Russia was run by a “regime of murderers”.
He had also used speeches in the United States and Europe to accuse Russia of bombing civilians in Ukraine, a charge Moscow has rejected.
After hearing he’d been ordered to spend the next quarter of a century in a maximum-security penal colony, Kara-Murza, who had calmly listened to proceedings inside a glass courtroom cage, declared “Russia will be free”, an opposition slogan.
He also smiled and – according to one of his lawyers, Maria Eismont – said he regarded the harsh sentence as recognition of his work.
“When he heard he’d got 25 years he said: ‘My self-esteem has gone up, I understand that I did everything right. It’s the highest score I could have got for what I did, for what I believed in as a citizen and a patriot,’“ she said.
His wife, Evgenia, echoed that sentiment on Twitter, likening his lengthy jail term to an “A+” for courage, consistency and honesty. “I am infinitely proud of you, my love, and I’m always by your side,” she wrote.
Separately, she told a Washington Post event that the sentence showed how much the Russian authorities feared her husband.
In his final speech in court last week, Kara-Murza compared his trial, held behind closed doors, to Josef Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s. He declined to ask the court to acquit him, saying he was proud of everything he had said and done.