- Written by Kathryn Armstrong
- BBC News
Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Russia on charges related to his criticism of the war in Ukraine.
He was found guilty of treason, spreading “false” information about the Russian army and belonging to an “unwanted organization”.
The former Russian-British journalist and politician is the latest of many opponents of Putin to be arrested or forced to flee Russia.
He has denied all charges against him.
His 25-year prison sentence was the highest number prosecutors had asked for, and the longest sentence yet handed down by an opposition figure.
Last week, he said in a statement: “I subscribe to every word I’ve said… I don’t just repent of any of this, I’m proud of it.”
“I know that the day will come after the darkness that has engulfed our country has dissipated,” he said in remarks posted online. “Our society will open its eyes and shiver when it realizes the crimes committed in its name.”
The judge announcing the verdict said it would take place in a “strict regime correctional colony” and that Mr Kara-Murza would be fined 400,000 rubles ($4,900; £4,000).
Mr. Kara-Murza has played a key role in persuading Western governments to punish Russian officials for human rights abuses and corruption.
He was arrested a year ago in Moscow, initially for disobeying a police officer. More serious charges were brought against him once he was arrested.
His case was based in part on a speech he gave to politicians in the United States last year in which he said Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine with cluster bombs in residential areas and the “bombing of maternity hospitals and schools”.
The claims were independently documented – but deemed false by Russian investigators, who said the Defense Ministry “did not permit the use of prohibited means … to wage war” and insisted that the civilian population of Ukraine was not a target.
Another charge stemmed from an event involving political prisoners in which Mr. Kara-Murza referred to what investigators called Russia’s “presumed repressive policies”.
Last week, a transcript was released of a speech he gave in front of the closed court, in which he said his trial reminded him of a Stalin-era show trial in the 1930s.
“I only blame myself for one thing,” said Mr. Kara-Murza. “I have failed to convince enough of my compatriots and politicians in democratic countries of the danger that the current Kremlin regime poses to Russia and the world.”
He almost died twice after being poisoned.
Sir Kara-Murza’s ruling was widely condemned, with the British government recalling its Russian ambassador.
“Russia’s lack of commitment to protecting basic human rights, including freedom of expression, is troubling,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.
The “Human Rights Watch” group called the verdict “a perversion of justice.”
“The Russian authorities must immediately overturn the sentence and release him unconditionally,” she wrote on social media.
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