Writing from his prison cell in Moscow, Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza says he has no regrets for speaking out against Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, adding that the “price of silence is unacceptable”.
In a series of letters to Sky News correspondent Sarah Rainsford, Vladimir explains what brought about his imprisonment, and continues to speak out against the Putin regime.
“We all understand the risk of opposition activity in Russia,“ he writes. “But I couldn’t stay silent in the face of what’s happening, because silence is a form of complicity.“
Deciding to return to Moscow at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine in February, Vladimir said: “I didn’t think I had the right to continue my political activity, to call other people to action, if I was sitting safely somewhere else.“
On April 11, his lawyer contacted his wife, who now lives in the U.S., informing her that her husband had been arrested on charges of treason.
Initially detained for disobeying a police officer during a protest event, additional charges were soon stacked against him, including “spreading false information“ about Russia’s leadership and military.
“The Kremlin wants to portray Putin’s opponents as traitors,“ he wrote. “The real traitors are those who are destroying the well-being, the reputation, and the future of our country for the sake of their personal power, not those who are speaking out against it.“
Vladimir, a Cambridge graduate and former advisor to Boris Nemtsov, faces up to 24 years behind bars.
On a potential conclusion to the war, Vladimir warns that Putin should not be allowed to leave unscathed, writing, “if he’s allowed a face-saving exit from the war, then in a year or two we will have another one.“
Speaking of her husband’s political activities and detainment, his wife, Evgenia, told the BBC: “I love and hate this man for his incredible integrity.“
“He had to be there with those people who went out on the streets and were arrested,“ she said. “He wanted to show that you shouldn’t be afraid in the face of that evil and I deeply respect and admire him for that. And I could kill him!“
In his letters, Vladimir mentions that the last person accused of treason for political opposition was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel prize winner detained in 1974. “All I can say is that I am honoured to be in such company,“ Vladmir adds.
Vladimir has previously worked alongside his wife to lobby western governments to sanction Russian oligarchs, and has allegedly been poisoned on two occasions.
Collapsing in 2015 and slipping into a coma, his wife Evgenia was told by doctors that he only had a five percent chance of survival. But Vladimir defied the odds, and was keen to quickly return to his homeland.
“The moment he could walk, he packed his bags and went to Russia,“ Evgenia said. “That fight is bigger than his fears.“
“This time, I wanted to make the trip to Russia beautiful for him,“ she added. “But deep inside, I knew what was coming.“