- By Kathryn Armstrong
- BBC News
Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Russia for criticizing the war in Ukraine.
He was found guilty of treason for spreading “false” information about the Russian military and joining an “undesirable organization”.
The Russian-British former journalist and politician is the latest of many Putin opponents to be arrested or forced to flee Russia.
He has denied all the allegations.
His 25-year prison sentence was the first count sought by prosecutors and the longest sentence an opposition figure has ever received.
Last week, he said in a statement: “I subscribe to every word I said … I don’t regret any of it, I’m proud of it.”
“I know a dark day will come in our country,” he added in comments posted online. Our society will open its eyes and tremble when it realizes what crimes have been committed in its name.
Announcing the sentence, the judge said it would be served in a “harsh regime reform colony” and Mr Kara-Murza would be fined 400,000 rubles ($4,900; £4,000).
Mr Kara-Murza played a key role in lobbying Western governments to sanction Russian officials for human rights abuses and corruption.
He was arrested in Moscow a year ago, initially for disobeying a police officer. When he was taken into custody, serious charges were brought against him.
His case was based in part on a speech he gave to politicians in the United States last year, alleging that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine by dropping cluster bombs on residential areas and “bombing maternity hospitals and schools.”
Those claims have been independently documented — but deemed false by Russian investigators, who insisted the Defense Ministry “does not allow the use of prohibited means…to wage war” and that civilians of Ukraine were not targeted.
Another allegation came from an event for political prisoners in which Mr Kara-Murza referred to what investigators called Russia’s “repressive policies”.
Last week, a transcript of his closed court speech was released in which he said his trial was reminiscent of the Stalin-era program trial of the 1930s.
“I only blame myself for one thing,” Mr Kara-Murza said. “I have failed to adequately convince my colleagues and politicians in democracies of the danger the current Kremlin regime poses to Russia and the world.”
He was poisoned and almost died twice.
Mr Kara-Murza’s conviction was widely condemned and the British government summoned its Russian ambassador.
“Russia’s lack of commitment to protecting basic human rights, including freedom of expression, is worrying,” British Foreign Secretary James said in a scathing statement.
Campaign group Human Rights Watch described the verdict as a “travesty of justice”.
“The Russian authorities should immediately overturn the verdict and release him unconditionally,” it wrote on social media.