Washington Post columnist arrested in Moscow after criticizing Putin
The Washington Post April 12, 2022
Russian authorities on Monday arrested Vladimir Kara-Murza — a prominent Kremlin critic and politician who has written columns for The Washington Post protesting Russia’s war in Ukraine and violations of human rights.
Kara-Murza was arrested outside his home in Moscow, the same day CNN aired an interview in which he called Vladimir Putin’s government “a regime of murderers” and predicted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would lead to Putin’s downfall.
The 40-year-old Putin critic previously survived two poisonings, in 2015 and 2017, which he said were orchestrated by the Kremlin in retaliation for his advocacy of western sanctions against the Russian government.
Russia has denied that it was the source of the poisonings, which left Kara-Murza in a coma both times. But investigations by independent organizations found that he had been followed by members of the same federal agency that allegedly poisoned jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and at least three other opposition figures.
His wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, confirmed his arrest in a tweet late Monday. “Twice have the Russian authorities tried to kill my husband for advocating for sanctions against thieves and murderers, and now they want to throw him in prison for calling their bloody war a WAR,” she wrote. “I demand my husband’s immediate release.”
“Following poisonings and other grave threats, this outrageous detention is the latest move in Vladimir Putin’s ongoing effort to silence Kara-Murza and hide the truth about the atrocities Putin is committing in the Russian people’s name,” The Post’s publisher, Fred Ryan, said in a statement praising the writer’s courage. “No one should be deceived by the Russian government’s trumped-up charges and smears, and Kara-Murza should be released immediately.”
Kara-Murza is a longtime colleague of the late Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated outside the Kremlin in 2015. He is an author, documentary director and former candidate for the Russian parliament, and served as deputy leader of a political organization, the People’s Freedom Party.
He played a key role in getting the United States, European Union, Canada and Britain to adopt sanctions laws in 2012, known as the Magnitsky Act, that target individuals in Russia and elsewhere who are complicit in human-rights violations.
Kara-Murza has written dozens of columns for The Post’s Global Opinions section over the past few years that have been critical of the Russian government.
“Within a single week, all - literally, all - of Russia’s remaining independent media voices have been silenced in a coordinated effort by the prosecutor general’s office and the government’s main censorship agency,” he wrote in a column March 7. “One after another, media outlets that dared to report honestly on Putin’s assault on Ukraine had their signals cut off and their websites blocked.”
His arrest follows the Kremlin’s sharp crackdown on independent news media and dissent in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. The Russian parliament last month enacted a law making it a crime punishable by prison terms of up to 15 years for spreading what it considers “fake” news about the military, including calling the invasion of Ukraine an “invasion.”
As other dissident figures have fled the country, Kara-Murza has been one of the few to remain in Russia.
In an interview that aired Monday on CNN+, the network’s new streaming service, Kara-Murza said, “I have absolutely no doubt that the Putin regime will end over this war in Ukraine.”
He called Putin’s government “a regime of murderers. It is important to say it out loud. It is really tragic frankly, I have no other word for this, that it took a large-scale war in the middle of Europe, which Vladimir Putin is now conducting against Ukraine, for most western leaders to finally open their eyes to the true nature of this regime.”
He added defiantly, “The biggest gift ... we could give to the Kremlin would be to those of us who are in opposition to Putin’s regime we could give up and run. That’s all they want from us.”
The Russian human-rights group OVD-Info said Kara-Murza was taken by arresting officers to a police station in central Moscow, where he was being held on a 15-day administrative jail sentence on charges of disobeying police orders. The organization cited his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov.
Kara-Murza is the third writer associated with The Post to face arrest and persecution at the hands of a foreign government in recent years.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian writer and dissident, also was a contributor to Global Opinions when he was murdered in October 2018 by Saudi agents in that nation’s consulate in Istanbul. The CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, a conclusion later confirmed by the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights after a six-month investigation.
Jason Rezaian, The Post’s correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016, spent 544 days in prison in Iran without trial before his release in early 2016. Rezaian is now a writer for Global Opinions.
CNN, which broadcast the interview with Kara-Murza, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.