Updated Apr 17, 2023, 10:27am EDT

Putin critic gets 25 years in prison for opposing war in Ukraine

Vladimir Kara-Murza
Moscow City Court/Handout via REUTERS

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Activist and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics, was handed a 25-year prison sentence on Monday for speaking out against the war in Ukraine.

A Moscow court found him guilty of treason.

Kara-Murza was detained last April for disobeying police orders, after which authorities charged him with spreading “fake” information about the Russian army and its invasion of Ukraine.

The international community has condemned the sentencing, with the Untied Nations human rights office calling it “a blow to the rule of law.”

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The sentence length is believed to be the longest an anti-Putin figure has received since the onset of the war, the BBC reports.


The presiding judge only took minutes to rule on the case, saying Kara-Murza would serve his time in a “strict regime correctional colony” and would be fined an additional 400,000 rubles (about $4,900).

“It is a terrifying but also very high assessment of his work as a politician and a citizen,” said Maria Eismont, one of Kara-Murza’s lawyers, according to Russian news outlet Sota.

Described as politically motivated, the trial largely took place behind closed doors, and prosecutors failed to present any evidence of treason, the New York Times reports.

Kara-Murza invoked terror from Stalin’s regime during his final address to the court last week.

“The day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate,” he said. “When black will be called black, and white will be called white; when at the official level, it will be recognized that two times two is still four; when a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper.”

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Kara-Murza has long been on the Kremlin's watchlist, and he previously said he has survived two poisoning attempts, one of which left him in a coma and dependent on a respirator.

In an effort to mitigate all criticism against the invasion, Putin has signed into law several statutes that restrict people from spreading "false information" about the war or protesting the government, including mandating that it be referred to as a "special military operation" instead of a war.

Fellow opposition figure Ilya Yashin was sentenced to eight years in prison in December for spreading "false information" about the Russian army. The charges related to a YouTube video in which Yashin discussed evidence about the Russian army's role in the Bucha massacre as reported by Western journalists.