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Apr 19, 2023, 10:38am EDT
securityEurope

The three dissidents at the heart of Russia’s escalating crackdown

Ilya Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Alexei Navalny
Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS, REUTERS/Joshua Roberts, REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
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A Russian court on Wednesday rejected the latest appeal from Ilya Yashin, who has been jailed since last summer for criticizing the Kremlin.

He is part of a handful of dissidents and activists who have made headlines over the past months and years for opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin, and facing prosecution as a result. Earlier this week, lawmakers in Moscow toughened laws to impose harsher punishments on critics of the Kremlin.

Here’s what you should know about Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Alexei Navalny.

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Ilya Yashin

Yashin, an opposition politician, publicly denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last March, saying that Russia can “stick their law on military censorship up their ass.”

He was detained several months later and accused of violating that censorship law, which bars spreading “false” information about the Russian armed forces. Yashin, who had discussed the killings in Bucha and said Russia was responsible, was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison.

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A Moscow judge denied his sentencing appeal Wednesday.

Before his verdict was read last year, Yashin said: “Strong leaders are calm and self-confident, and only weaklings seek to shut everyone up, burn out any dissent.”

Vladimir Kara-Murza

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Kara-Murza, a journalist and activist, is one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics. He previously said he has survived two poisoning attempts, one of which left him in a coma.

Earlier this week, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for speaking out against the war in Ukraine, after a Moscow court found him guilty of treason. Like Yashin, he was charged with spreading “fake” information about the Russian army and its invasion of Ukraine.

The length of his sentence is believed to be the longest a Putin critic has received since the start of the war, the BBC reported.

Alexei Navalny

Considered Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Navalny was arrested in 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he said he had been poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent.

He was later sentenced to a total of over 11 years in prison, after a trial that human rights groups described as a sham. He was transferred to a high-security prison, and a spokesperson said this week that he is suffering from mysterious stomach pain and may have been poisoned again.

Before he was arrested, Navalny was known for making films that accused senior Russian officials, including Putin, of corruption.

A documentary about Navalny won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature earlier this year.

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