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Statement from Ambassador Mark A. Green on the Unjust Sentencing of Vladimir Kara-Murza

The Wilson Center is a unique institution in American foreign policy. Congressionally chartered, scholarship driven, fiercely independent and nonpartisan.

Our special status brings with it certain obligations: to not duplicate what others are doing, but instead to prioritize the most important issues —the issues that matter most to America and the values we hold dear.

That also means that we can, and indeed we must, call out instances of injustice when we see them, especially when that injustice resonates around the world.

This morning is one such occasion. Yesterday, a court in the Russian Federation sentenced journalist and political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison because he dared to speak out against Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

Vladimir’s response to the sentencing, published last week in The Washington Post, included the following:

I subscribe to every word that I have spoken and every word of which I have been accused by this court.

I blame myself for only one thing: that over the years of my political activity, I have not managed to convince enough of my compatriots and enough politicians in the democratic countries of the danger that the current regime in the Kremlin poses for Russia and for the world.

Today this is obvious to everyone, but at a terrible price — the price of war.

This verdict is only the latest attack launched against my friend Vladimir. As The Washington Post also reported:

[He] has been poisoned twice: in 2015 and 2017.

He has been followed by Russian officers.

His friends and associates have been attacked, jailed and killed. Kara-Murza has described his imprisonment as a kind of badge of honor worn by Russian oppositionists before him.


Vladimir may have predecessors who also have been attacked and imprisoned on orders of the Kremlin, but he has few equals. Vladimir has spoken often, far and wide – in his homeland, Russia. In the UK. Across the United States.

Along the way, as mentioned, Russian security forces poisoned him twice, nearly killing him both times. I first met him after the first time. Each time, he returned. Physically damaged, but morally stronger.

Everywhere he went, he has called for people to recognize that Vladimir Putin has set Russia on a course to tyranny.

With his sentencing yesterday, and with more than a year of Putin’s brutal war behind us, events have sadly proven how prophetic Vladimir was. For me, Vladimir is more than an activist to admire—he is a friend. And Vladimir has a lot of friends here in this country, and around the world.

Sen John McCain admired him so much that he asked Vladimir to be one of his pall bearers. So President Putin may think today that he has succeeded in silencing one of his harshest critics. In truth, he is elevating Vladimir’s example to all of us.

Putin may think he is showing his strength; in reality, he is proving his weakness. He is afraid of Vladimir Kara-Murza and the truth he represents. Today’s event is intended to take close look at Vladimir’s impact.

To examine the lessons that his fellow Russian journalists and activists in exile should take from his long—and very much ongoing—struggle against the Putin system.

These exiled individuals are coming together with recent open letters calling for the release of both Vladimir and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Today’s conversation will explore what this collective action might hope to accomplish in the coming months. And it will not end Vladimir’s incarceration, or end the other Vladimir’s misrule, I very much hope that it will hasten both.


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The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more