Opposition figure's sentence underlines Russian intolerance

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FILE - Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian opposition activist arrives to lay flowers near the place where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down, in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 27, 2021. The 25-year treason sentence imposed on prominent Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza on Monday April 17, 2023 was a particularly severe show of authorities' intensifying intolerance of criticism of the war in Ukraine and other dissenting opinions. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

The 25-year treason sentence imposed on prominent Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza on Monday was a particularly severe show of Russian authorities’ intensifying intolerance for criticism of the war in Ukraine and other dissenting opinions.

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia for years has been closing in on those who challenge the Kremlin, arresting countless protesters, cracking down on independent news media and adding inconvenient organizations to its register of “foreign agents.”

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The hostility to opposition increased within days of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, when it adopted a law criminalizing the spreading of “false information” about its military.

The charges against Kara-Murza, who has been behind bars since his arrest a year ago, stem from his March 2022 speech to the Arizona House of Representatives in which he denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Here is a look at other notable cases of imprisoned opposition figures:

ALEXEI NAVALNY

The most persistent and inventive critic of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, Navalny has been in prison for more than two years but gained new visibility this spring when a documentary about him won an Academy Award.

A lawyer by training, he first came to note by publishing investigations of Russian companies’ corruption, and the work expanded into a broad opposition portfolio. He repeatedly served jail terms for organizing protest demonstrations that reached scores of cities across the country. He also was twice convicted of embezzlement, but those sentences were suspended.

In 2020, Navalny became severely ill and fell into a coma while visiting a Siberian city. He was airlifted to Germany in critical condition and found to have been poisoned with a nerve agent. During his months of recovery, he released the recording of a call he said he made to an alleged member of a group of officers of the Federal Security Service who purportedly carried out the poisoning

After that, authorities said his recuperation in Germany violated the terms of his suspended sentence. Nonetheless, Navalny returned to Moscow in January 2021, where he was arrested at the airport. He was sentenced to 2½ years in prison, and last year was convicted of other charges and given another nine-year term.

Last week, a U.S.-based spokeswoman for his anticorruption foundation said Navalny is seriously ill in prison and that poisoning is suspected.

ILYA YASHIN

One of the few well-known Kremlin critics to have stayed in Russia after the start of the Ukraine war, Yashin was arrested in June while walking in a Moscow park and was sentenced to 8½ years in prison on a conviction of spreading false information about Russian soldiers.

The charge stemmed from a livestream on YouTube in which he talked about civilians killed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. After Russian forces withdrew from the area in March 2022, hundreds of corpses were found in the town, including some with their hands bound behind their backs and apparently executed.

ALEXEI MOSKALYOV

Moskalyov was not a well-known figure, just a 54-year-old single father of a 13-year-old daughter in a provincial town. But after his daughter refused to participate in a patriotic class at school and made a drawing reading “Glory to Ukraine,” Moskalyov was investigated by police and found to have made social media posts critical of the war.

He was sentenced to two years in prison, but fled house arrest hours before the sentence was handed down. He was arrested in neighboring Belarus and extradited to Russia.

ALEXEI GORINOV

Gorinov, a member of a Moscow municipal council, was the first person to be sentenced to prison under the law penalizing the spread of “false information” about Russian troops. He was arrested a year ago after criticizing Russia’s military actions in Ukraine at a municipal council meeting.

A video available on YouTube shows him voicing skepticism about holding a planned children’s art competition in his constituency while “every day children are dying” in Ukraine.

He was sentenced to seven years.

ANDREI PIVOVAROV

Just days after the Open Russia opposition group that he headed disbanded in 2021 when authorities declared it an “undesirable” organization, Pivovarov was pulled off a Warsaw-bound airliner that was about to leave St. Petersburg. He was convicted last year of sponsoring a local candidate on behalf of an undesirable organization and sentenced to four years.