Kremlin Critic Kara-Murza’s Treason Trial Begins Behind Closed Doors – The Moscow Times

The closed-door trial of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who faces up to two decades in prison on treason charges for comments made criticizing the Kremlin, opened in Moscow on Monday.

Kara-Murza’s trial is the latest in a string of cases against opposition voices in Russia in a crackdown that has intensified since President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade Ukraine last year.

The activist was charged over remarks he made critical of Moscow during three public engagements abroad, his lawyer told the TASS news agency, stressing that the comments “did not pose a threat to the country.”

If found guilty, Kara-Murza could face up to 20 years in prison.

“A true Russian patriot, he stands accused of high treason for his tireless fight for a Putin-free Russia,” his wife, Yevgenia Kara-Murza wrote on social media.

Kara-Murza was detained in April last year on charges of disseminating what the authorities considered to be “fake news” about the Russian army.

The case against him was launched following an address he made to members of the lower house of the Arizona legislature last March in which he discussed Russia’s Ukraine offensive.

In August 2022, Kara-Murza was accused of being affiliated with an “undesirable organization” for participating in a conference in support of political prisoners.

He was also added to Russia’s foreign agent list — a label reminiscent of the “enemy of the people” branding that was used during Soviet times to isolate dissidents.

A Russian citizen by birth, Kara-Murza received British citizenship after moving to the United Kingdom with his mother when he was 15.

The Western-educated activist and journalist was a close associate of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch turned Putin critic.

While Kara-Murza says he has been poisoned twice — in 2015 and 2017 — for his political activities, he continued to spend long periods of time in Russia and told AFP in June 2021 that he had no intention of permanently leaving the country.

“There was no scenario under which I would not come back. We are Russian politicians. Our place is here at home in Russia,” he said. 

“The biggest gift that those of us who oppose Vladimir Putin could give to the Kremlin would be to give up and run away,” Kara-Murza added. 

In October 2022, Kara-Murza was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Moscow has stepped up efforts to stamp out dissent in the year since Putin sent troops into Ukraine. 

Almost all of Putin’s best-known political opponents have either fled the country or are in jail. 

Putin’s most vocal domestic critic Alexei Navalny is currently serving a nine-year jail term on embezzlement charges widely seen as political.

Another prominent opposition politician Ilya Yashin was sentenced to eight years and six months in jail for his Ukraine remarks in December last year.

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