Vladimir Kara-Murza: Russian Political Prisoner, a Conscience of the Nation


Vladimir Kara-Murza is one of the greatest and bravest men in the world. He is barely fathomable. Twice, the Kremlin tried to kill him, with poison. He kept campaigning for freedom and democracy in Russia. Now he is a political prisoner. Yesterday was his 42nd birthday. They have transferred him to a penal colony in Siberia.

I have known Vladimir for years and written about and podcasted with him many times. Here is one piece, from May 2022 (“In Dark Times, a Brave Man”).

Yesterday, the U.S. embassy in Moscow issued a statement:

. . . Today, he turns 42 years old, marking his second birthday in detention, while he undergoes a perilous transfer to a penal colony after the denial of his appeal of his unjustified 25-year sentence.

Mr. Kara-Murza should not be in prison in the first place. He has done nothing more than disagree with the policies of his government and express his opinions publicly — fundamental freedoms enshrined in both the Russian constitution and international treaties to which Russia is a party. Like hundreds of other courageous Russians who have been detained for exercising their basic rights as citizens, he is a casualty of the Kremlin’s attempt to silence dissent and to make an example of those with the courage to speak out against Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. As Kara-Murza has argued, speaking truth to power is the act of a patriot, not an “enemy” of the state.

The British government issued a similar statement, here.

Vladimir’s mother, Elena Gordon, has written a piece for Prospect magazine: “My son, Putin’s prisoner.” She begins by noting Vladimir’s 25-year sentence (in a maximum-security outpost). She continues,

This sentence is not a punishment only for him. His three children will grow fatherless into their teenage years and adulthood: the youngest was 10 when his father was arrested, the two girls 13 and 16. His wife has abandoned her normal life and is tirelessly fighting for her husband’s rescue. His 90-year-old grandmother has lost her eyesight and feels grief beyond words. His father, also a prominent Russian journalist, was already dead by the time of his son’s arrest. As for me, I am surviving.

I survive with the help of a single thought. Since my son was arrested on 11th April 2022, my life has been reduced to the pursuit of one obsessive goal: to see my son alive and free. While it is not certain that Vladimir will remain alive for the whole duration of his sentence — in fact, the chances that he will are slim, given his state of health and conditions in a Russian penal colony — it is safe to say that I will not see the end of his draconian imprisonment in my lifetime. That is why I decided to write this short tribute to my son. May it be both my testament and my declaration of love.

To read the rest of this piece — this testament, this declaration — go here.

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