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Five people sanctioned over imprisonment of British-Russian dissident

Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed for 25 years on Monday in a process the UK says breached his human rights.

Christopher McKeon
Friday 21 April 2023 15:43 BST
Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed for 25 years after being convicted of treason by a Moscow court (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/PA)
Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed for 25 years after being convicted of treason by a Moscow court (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/PA) (AP)

The UK has sanctioned five people including two Russian spies following the imprisonment of a British-Russian dissident for 25 years in Moscow.

Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed on Monday after being convicted of treason and spreading false information about the Russian army in a process he described as a “show trial”.

The Kremlin critic, a close ally of murdered opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, has already survived two poisonings that left him in a coma in 2015 and 2017.

The Foreign Office has now placed sanctions on three individuals involved in his arrest and two members of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, who followed Mr Kara-Murza prior to his poisonings.

Those sanctioned for their involvement in Mr Kara-Murza’s arrest have been named as Elena Lenskaya, the judge who approved the arrest, and investigators Denis Kolesnikov and Andrei Zadachin.

FSB agents Alexander Samofal and Konstantin Kudryavtsev have also been sanctioned, with the Foreign Office saying they were part of an “operational team” that followed Mr Kara-Murza on multiple trips before he was poisoned.

The five people will now be subject to travel bans and asset freezes.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Russia’s treatment and conviction of Vladimir Kara-Murza once again demonstrates its utter contempt for basic human rights.

“Today five individuals connected to his case have been sanctioned, sending a clear message that the UK will not stand for this treatment of one of its citizens.

“The UK will continue to support Mr Kara-Murza and his family. I call on Russia to release him immediately and unconditionally.”

The judge who presided over Mr Kara-Murza’s trial and the head of the detention centre where he is being held have already been sanctioned in connection with another case.

It only saddens me that it took a year of unlawful detention, a horrific sentence of 25 years in strict regime and a very concerning deterioration of my husband’s health for the British Government to move to a somewhat stronger response

Evgenia Kara-Murza

Following his imprisonment on Monday, Mr Cleverly praised Mr Kara-Murza, who holds a British passport, for “bravely” speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and summoned the Russian ambassador to explain his country’s actions.

The dissident’s wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, had called for the UK to sanction those involved in his prosecution, saying she was “baffled” that sanctions had not come sooner.

Mrs Kara-Murza said: “I fully support this much welcome – even though slightly delayed – measure by the FCDO.

“It only saddens me that it took a year of unlawful detention, a horrific sentence of 25 years in strict regime and a very concerning deterioration of my husband’s health for the British Government to move to a somewhat stronger response.

“But they have only imposed sanctions on five out of over 30 people implicated in the illegal persecution and prosecution of a British citizen and a fierce human rights defender.

Bill Browder, a friend of Mr Kara-Murza and head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, also welcomed the sanctions but said the decision “falls far short”.

He said: “Vladimir is a British citizen and his health has critically deteriorated in prison. His life is significantly at risk as he begins his 25-year sentence in a Russian penal colony.

“The government has sanctioned only five individuals involved in his political persecution and there are more than 30 involved in this brazen breach of human rights in Russia. Furthermore, it is completely inexplicable why it has taken this long for James Cleverly to act while the US and Canada imposed sanctions months ago.

“The Foreign Secretary and the British Government should be doing everything in its power to free Vladimir for jail.”

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