Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Yet Another Nationalist Spat: Russia and Turkey back at odds

Nov 27 2015

For centuries, the Russian Empire and Ottoman Empire fought each other, Russia usually emerging victorious The rivalry stretches back to the 1500s when the first Russo-Turkish War took place in 1568. 

Ten more wars between the countries would take place until 1917, and in the 20th Century, the Republic of Turkey’s decision to join NATO kept embers of the ancient showdown alive during the Cold War.

And now, nationalism has pitted the Russian Federation and Republic of Turkey against each other once more. On Tuesday, the Turkish Armed Forces shot down a Russian SU-24 plane which had crossed into Turkish airspace. Both pilots ejected from the plane in time to avoid injury, but were captured by a Syrian Turkmen militia fighting in Syria. One is dead, killed by the militiamen that found him. The other has been transported to Turkey and will be returned to Russia.

In a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Putin, visibly angry, condemned the attack in choice words, calling it a “stab in the back” and publicly accusing Ankara of supporting the Islamic fundamentalists in Syria and Iraq under the table. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled his trip to Turkey upon hearing the news and called it a “planned provocation”.  The Turkish Embassy in Moscow was the subject of a raucous protest where stones and eggs were thrown at the building.

Ankara fired back immediately, insisting they were merely defending their territory and that they had warned the jet to change course multiple times before they shot it down.

Russia has been crossing into Turkish airspace many times since the Kremlin decided to get directly involved with the Syrian Civil War. Russia possesses a military base in northern Syria not far from the Turkish border.

Luckily, tensions calmed down a bit. The Turkish Foreign Minister expressed his condolences to Mr. Lavrov and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called for a deescalation of tensions.

It’s important to remember even with the angry words thrown about that further escalation leading to war between Russia and Turkey is a very distant and unlikely possibility. Despite the strength of both countries’ armed services, war would be catastrophic for both sides. Russia risks walking into a direct conflict with NATO, an event that could only end in worldwide disaster, and Turkey would almost immediately sink their energy sector into oblivion as they receive ample supplies of natural gas from Russia.

Neither side has much of a moral high ground in this spat. Not long after the plane was shot down, evidence emerged that the Russian SU-24 plane was in Turkish airspace for just 18 seconds. While NATO and Turkey have both warned that unwanted planes in their airspace could lead to the use of force, Ankara’s decision to shoot down a plane for spending mere seconds in their air comes across as trigger-happy and as if they were looking for a fight. It’s true that this is hardly the first time Russia has crossed into foreign airspace much to the irritation of various EU countries, but the Turkish Air Force regularly patrols and crosses into Greek airspace, which implies they operate under the idea of “Do as I say, not as I do”. The Russian pilot that has returned to Turkey has claimed the Turkish Air Force never warned him that they would use force, further complicating matters.

It is too early to tell whether this will lead to a significant change in policy when it comes to Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War, but it certainly doesn’t help much. A concrete solution to the Syrian Civil War could be delayed because of this spat and it’s sent a chill into relations between Moscow and Ankara. Turkey’s vehement opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad, who is supported by the Kremlin, will likely become more pronounced, as Ankara was quick to voice its skepticism about a “grand coalition that included Russia to defeat Da’esh. Whispers of a ceasefire and a permanent resolution may be on hold. Some have speculated that it’s time for Russia to directly arm the Kurds in northern Syria and stand by them when this war ends. This is a noble idea in theory as the Kurds have been Daesh’s bane  for many months, but it would infuriate Turkey, which still suffers from a festering wound in its conflict with the PKK. Turkey’s place in NATO will also contribute to hurting an already frayed relationship between the organization and the Kremlin. Closer to home, the Center for Strategic and International Studies has speculated that the energy ties Moscow and Ankara may be put under some strain.

Both Russia and Turkey are driven by a strong sense of patriotism and even nationalism. Russia’s centuries of history have produced a rich and complex culture and a perseverant people. Russians are often known for being very patriotic even when things look grim. Likewise, In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk laid the foundation for a new and advanced secular republic in a region still struggling to find identity from colonial occupation and plenty of internal wars. Turkey, despite its problems, has grown into a wealthy, democratic, secular, and influential power. Ataturk’s thoughtful and determined likeness is everywhere in Turkey, from the bills and coins of the lira to the names of landmarks throughout the country.

Patriotism is a noble value which both countries possess in large quantities. Nationalism, however, can be venomous, especially if it incorporates an ethnic element rather than a civic element.  And pride can blind a government into rash action that it can come to regret. When two fiercely patriotic countries clash with centuries of bad blood in the rearview mirror, someone’s bound to end up hurt, or killed. It’s time to put aside pride and make sure this is an isolated incident.

by Kyle Menyhert

Ten more wars between the countries would take place until 1917, and in the 20th Century, the Republic of Turkey’s decision to join NATO kept embers of the ancient showdown alive during the Cold War.

And now, nationalism has pitted the Russian Federation and Republic of Turkey against each other once more. On Tuesday, the Turkish Armed Forces shot down a Russian SU-24 plane which had crossed into Turkish airspace. Both pilots ejected from the plane in time to avoid injury, but were captured by a Syrian Turkmen militia fighting in Syria. One is dead, killed by the militiamen that found him. The other has been transported to Turkey and will be returned to Russia.

In a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Putin, visibly angry, condemned the attack in choice words, calling it a “stab in the back” and publicly accusing Ankara of supporting the Islamic fundamentalists in Syria and Iraq under the table. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled his trip to Turkey upon hearing the news and called it a “planned provocation”.  The Turkish Embassy in Moscow was the subject of a raucous protest where stones and eggs were thrown at the building.

Ankara fired back immediately, insisting they were merely defending their territory and that they had warned the jet to change course multiple times before they shot it down.

Russia has been crossing into Turkish airspace many times since the Kremlin decided to get directly involved with the Syrian Civil War. Russia possesses a military base in northern Syria not far from the Turkish border.

Luckily, tensions calmed down a bit. The Turkish Foreign Minister expressed his condolences to Mr. Lavrov and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called for a deescalation of tensions.

It’s important to remember even with the angry words thrown about that further escalation leading to war between Russia and Turkey is a very distant and unlikely possibility. Despite the strength of both countries’ armed services, war would be catastrophic for both sides. Russia risks walking into a direct conflict with NATO, an event that could only end in worldwide disaster, and Turkey would almost immediately sink their energy sector into oblivion as they receive ample supplies of natural gas from Russia.

Neither side has much of a moral high ground in this spat. Not long after the plane was shot down, evidence emerged that the Russian SU-24 plane was in Turkish airspace for just 18 seconds. While NATO and Turkey have both warned that unwanted planes in their airspace could lead to the use of force, Ankara’s decision to shoot down a plane for spending mere seconds in their air comes across as trigger-happy and as if they were looking for a fight. It’s true that this is hardly the first time Russia has crossed into foreign airspace much to the irritation of various EU countries, but the Turkish Air Force regularly patrols and crosses into Greek airspace, which implies they operate under the idea of “Do as I say, not as I do”. The Russian pilot that has returned to Turkey has claimed the Turkish Air Force never warned him that they would use force, further complicating matters.

It is too early to tell whether this will lead to a significant change in policy when it comes to Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War, but it certainly doesn’t help much. A concrete solution to the Syrian Civil War could be delayed because of this spat and it’s sent a chill into relations between Moscow and Ankara. Turkey’s vehement opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad, who is supported by the Kremlin, will likely become more pronounced, as Ankara was quick to voice its skepticism about a “grand coalition that included Russia to defeat Da’esh. Whispers of a ceasefire and a permanent resolution may be on hold. Some have speculated that it’s time for Russia to directly arm the Kurds in northern Syria and stand by them when this war ends. This is a noble idea in theory as the Kurds have been Daesh’s bane  for many months, but it would infuriate Turkey, which still suffers from a festering wound in its conflict with the PKK. Turkey’s place in NATO will also contribute to hurting an already frayed relationship between the organization and the Kremlin. Closer to home, the Center for Strategic and International Studies has speculated that the energy ties Moscow and Ankara may be put under some strain.

Both Russia and Turkey are driven by a strong sense of patriotism and even nationalism. Russia’s centuries of history have produced a rich and complex culture and a perseverant people. Russians are often known for being very patriotic even when things look grim. Likewise, In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk laid the foundation for a new and advanced secular republic in a region still struggling to find identity from colonial occupation and plenty of internal wars. Turkey, despite its problems, has grown into a wealthy, democratic, secular, and influential power. Ataturk’s thoughtful and determined likeness is everywhere in Turkey, from the bills and coins of the lira to the names of landmarks throughout the country.

Patriotism is a noble value which both countries possess in large quantities. Nationalism, however, can be venomous, especially if it incorporates an ethnic element rather than a civic element.  And pride can blind a government into rash action that it can come to regret. When two fiercely patriotic countries clash with centuries of bad blood in the rearview mirror, someone’s bound to end up hurt, or killed. It’s time to put aside pride and make sure this is an isolated incident.

by Kyle Menyhert

“We are agents of change.” The speech by FRF’s President Natalia Arno at the European Parliament

Jun 05 2023

On June 5-6, 2023, the European Parliament in Brussels at the initiative of Lithuanian MEP Andrius Kubilius and others, hosts a two-day conference “The Day After”, with the participation of over 200 representatives from Russia’s anti-war and opposition groups, journalists, prominent cultural figures, as well as European politicians.

On June 5, 2023, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation spoke at the European Parliament in Brussels. In her opening remarks to the inaugural session of the Brussels Dialogue— Roundtable of EU and Democratic Russia Representatives, Ms. Arno described the heroic efforts by Russian civil society to stop the war and stand up to Putin’s regime; and called for a closer cooperation between Russian and European democratic forces to support Ukraine’s victory and ensure a lasting peace in Europe.

Below is the transcript of her full remarks.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of the European Parliament and EU institutions, esteemed representatives from across the transatlantic community, and my dear friends and colleagues who are selflessly fighting for a free and democratic Russia, 

Thank you all for being here today. My special thanks to the MEP from Lithuania, Standing Rapporteur on Russia, Andrius KUBILIUS and to Shadow Rapporteurs – Messrs. CIMOSZEWICZ, GUETTA and LAGODINSKY – and their amazing teams who worked tirelessly to gather us all for this historic event. We are thankful for a very timely realization at the EU level that we, pro-democracy anti-war anti-regime Russians, are an important actor in efforts to stop the war and the key force in transforming Russia into democracy. 

The Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February shook the world with its brutality and aggression, wretchedly echoing World War II. This war has been the first war watched on social media, brought to our living rooms– with every brutal death, every destroyed hospital, every orphaned child—staring into our face, breaking our heart, hundreds of times per day. But it’s not something that only exists on a computer screen. The reality on the ground is both unspeakable destruction and human cruelty that defies who we crave to be as humans. This war is black and white. The fight between the evil and the good, between the dictatorship and the democratic world with Ukraine on the front lines. There are no half tones, no moral ambivalence. Just like Hitler, Putin is perpetrating a criminal atrocity not only against Ukraine, but against freedom, democracy and our civilized way of life. 

This war is a huge tragedy for Ukraine, but it is also a catastrophic disaster for Russia. It’s a tragedy for so many Russians who understand what this war is, and it’s a tragedy that there are so many Russians who don’t understand it at all. 

This war has forced the world to take a new look at Russia. What is this country and who are these people engaged in unspeakable acts of brutality? Who are these people who passively watch as their army kills and destroys without any reason? They must be pure evil reincarnated! 

As the world, in pain and anger, looked for ways to respond, some of your governments shut your borders to all Russian passport holders, cancelled air traffic from Russia, pulled out businesses, denied services to all Russians, equated all Russians to Putin. We understood the reason for this. 

But let me remind you something. The Russian civil society and independent media were the first victim of Putin’s regime. We were the first ones to warn about the dangerous, corrupt, criminal, murderous nature of Putin’s regime. We were those telling you that his internal repressions will lead to external aggression. We were those who exposed the Kremlin’s export of corruption, influence campaigns in Europe and elsewhere. We were those who discovered Prigozhin’s factory of trolls and other disinformation tricks. We were the ones pleading the West not to enable Putin, not to operate with “realpolitik” and “business as usual”. In Putin’s war against freedom and democracy, Russian civil society has always been one of his priority targets. Many of us have paid a terrible price ourselves – losing our homeland, in many cases losing our freedom to imprisonment and to some of us, losing lives or family members. 

While we often hear there are no good Russians, I know many. All of us who are here today were invited by the European Parliament for our merits. We and our colleagues have moved mountains. Hundreds of us here represent civil society organizations, media outlets, grassroots initiatives with dozens of thousands activists and journalists in our networks. We communicate to millions through our YouTube and Telegram channels, newspapers, programs, and events. All of us are in exile now.

Inside Russia, many keep resisting, too. According to OVD-info, a portal tracking activism inside Russia, since the full-scale invasion there have been only 25 days without arrests for anti-war protests. There is the story of a Siberian grandmother— anti-war activist Natalia Filonova from my native Republic of Buryatia, whose special needs son was taken away from her in retribution for her protests and sent to a remote orphanage, while she herself is in jail awaiting trial. Another political prisoner Ilya Yashin, has just published a story about Natalia Filonova. Yashin himself is in jail for 8.5 years for telling the truth about Bucha.

Another real Russian patriot is a dear friend and man whom most of you know personally— Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has survived two assassination attempts by Putin’s regime, two comas, and still went back to Russia to testify to what is right and what is true. He is now in prison on a Stalin-era 25year sentence. 

Yesterday it was the birthday of Alexey Navalny who also survived Novichok poisoning and is slowly being killed in prison. 

All these names and many others will be mentioned at this conference and shouldn’t be forgotten. There are tens of thousands of documented stories like these. Tens of thousands of “good” humans arrested and prosecuted for their anti-war and pro-democracy stance. 

Why am I telling you all of this? In hopes that you see that Russian civil society was the first front in Putins war on democracy and peace.  As Western leaders dined and shook hands with Putin for 20 years, as Europeans accommodated Putin’s regime in exchange for cheap energy, as they offered citizenships to his associates, Putin was busy eradicating the Russian political opposition, independent media and civil society. 

Today, we address a pressing issue that lies at the heart of our shared destiny and demands our immediate attention and decisive action. Through all this shock from the devastating tragedy that we are all experiencing, I want to bring to you a message of resilience, hope and an urgent plea for solidarity. We, pro-democracy anti-war anti-regime Russians, are not only first victims of Putin’s regime, and not only targets for friendly fire and problems for your governments because we need visas and bank accounts, but most importantly, we are agents of change. Not foreign agents or undesirables as the Kremlin labels us, but agents of change, agents of the Russian people and Russia’s future. We are the part of the solution. We are the ones who are willing to transform Russia, to make it normal and civilized.

No doubt that Ukraine will win, but after the war it won’t be easy. We understand doubts about Russia’s democratization prospects, but we, pro-democracy anti-war anti-regime Russians, can’t afford to believe that freedom and democracy is not possible in our home country. Democracy in Russia is the only guarantee of sustainability of Ukraines victory and a key factor of stability and security in Europe and globally.

Those of us invited to this event have been working tirelessly as supporters of change for years. Our collective resume includes rallies against media capture and Khodorkovsky’s arrest in Putin’s early days, election observation missions proving massive fraud in all levels of elections throughout the country, “Dissenters Marches”, rallies on Bolotnaya and Sakharova and many other squares throughout the country and throughout the years, against the annexation of Crimea and invasion to Eastern Ukraine then and the full-scale invasion now. Our collective resume includes advocating for sanctions, both personal and sectoral, advocating for enforcement of sanctions and for making it harder for the Kremlin to circumvent them. Our collective resume includes assistance to Ukraine – evacuations from the war zone, search for Ukrainian POWs, litigation and advocacy on behalf of Ukrainian hostages of Putin’s regime held in Russian jails, cooperation on international justice mechanisms including the Tribunal and on documenting war crimes, humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians including shelters, clothing, medication. Our collective resume includes huge efforts by Russian independent media, bloggers, influencers, grassroots initiatives to tell the truth about this brutal war, to disseminate the factful information, to counter Kremlin’s narratives, to influence public opinion inside Russia. Our collective resume also includes discussions on how to achieve political transition, how to conduct sustainable reforms, how to make deputinization and even desovietization of Russia. 

We are not Europe’s headache, we are your asset. We ask our European partners to use our expertise, because nobody knows Russia better than us. Nobody knows Putin regime and his methods better than us. Nobody knows the Russian people better than us. Individually we do a lot. Collectively as a Russian pro-democracy anti-war movement we can do even more. With your solidarity, with the support of the democratic world, we can win. Working together is a force multiplier.

When I looked on your website yesterday, the main stated aims of the European Union within its borders are: to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens. 

How do we promote peace now? We do everything we possibly can to make sure Ukraine wins this war. But it is clear, that until there is a real political change in Russia, until democracy and civil rights are reestablished for the Russian people, until Putin’s regime is brought to justice, no lasting peace is possible. It’s very practical for the Western democracies to support, strengthen and grow us— inside and outside of Russia. 

I am here to call on the EU as a community— to give voice to pro-democracy anti-war Russians at European institutions. Regular sessions of this conference, new report on Russia by the EU Parliament, EU Special Representative for Russia and other working mechanisms are important to discuss plans on reconstructing Ukraine after the war, prosecuting war criminals, and reforming Russia after Putin. So that Russians inside Russia see that Putin is wrong— the West does not seek to destroy Russia, and that Russians who are for democracy are not outcasts but are embraced by the international democratic community. 

We need a coherent Europe-wide strategy on how to stabilize the Russian civil society— save us from peril, prevent us from quitting the fight, help us mobilize and engage Russian society. This means clear legalization policies; some standard approach to our ability to work and travel. That means the end of the punitive measures such as denial of services that are not only counterproductive but also are illegal under the EU law. That means judging us on the basis of our values and our actions, not on the basis of our citizenship and nationality. That means support of our programs and initiatives.

In this room there are Russians from different regions and organizations, of different backgrounds, with different opinions and you might see some debates and disagreement throughout the program, but we have one unified position: Ukraine must win the war, and Russia must change from the inside to be a reliable and stable partner for the democratic world. Russia must return to its fundamental values of producing great poets, composers, physicists, and philosophers instead of being hackers, invaders, and war criminals. We in this room are here to join hands with our European partners and work with you to make this happen.

From the Board of Free Russia Foundation

May 18 2023

While traveling abroad recently, Free Russia Foundation’s president fell ill under circumstances that cause great concern. The matter is under investigation.

The health and safety of our staff and beneficiaries are our paramount concern.

Free Russia Foundation continues its work for a free, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Russia, reintegrated into the international community as a constructive and positive actor.

Statement on the Sentencing of Vladimir Kara-Murza

Apr 17 2023

Dear colleagues and friends,

Today, on April 17, 2023, the Russian judicial system handed down a monstrous sentence to Vladimir Kara-Murza, a politician, journalist, historian, our colleague and friend — a 25-year prison sentence, which effectively means the rest of his life. The verdict was reached based on false accusations, despite the absence of any evidence to support them.

We are at a loss for words to express our outrage and indignation at this unjust and merciless verdict. This is a clear act of revenge, without any basis or justification. The Putin regime no longer even attempts to make its accusations appear plausible. This is not merely a kangaroo justice, but rather a repeat of Stalin’s criminal statutes, his allegations, and his sentences. It is a new version of the year 1937. The Russian authorities are repeating the errors of the past, and leading the country directly towards the Gulag. In one of his letters from prison, Vladimir Kara-Murza wrote, “When evil is not recognized, condemned, and punished, it will inevitably return. This is the terrible lesson that post-Soviet Russia has taught the world.”

Many of us know Vladimir Kara-Murza not only as a public figure but also as a hero, a fighter for freedom and justice in Russia, and a close associate of Boris Nemtsov. Despite surviving two severe poisonings in 2015 and 2017, which brought him close to death, Vladimir continued to fight for the freedom and rights of Russian citizens. However, his health has significantly deteriorated since being imprisoned, and he is experiencing a loss of sensation in his limbs. Before our eyes, Vladimir Kara-Murza, a true patriot of Russia, is slowly dying in prison and may become another victim of Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The trial of Vladimir Kara-Murza was a ploy to silence his voice and remove him from the path of those who are willing to maintain their power in Russia at any cost. This is a clear act of political revenge from the Kremlin, in response to his longstanding pro-democracy stance and opposition activities, his active participation in advocating for personal international sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, and his public criticism of Vladimir Putin’s war on the people of Ukraine.

Vladimir Kara-Murza is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. The criminal charges against him must be dropped.

Free Russia Foundation is urging the international community, public figures, and human rights organizations to increase their pressure on the Kremlin to release Vladimir Kara-Murza from detention, or to exchange him as part of humanitarian programs. We invite everyone to join our #FreeKaraMurza campaign and condemn this unjust sentence. We strongly believe that only through unity and solidarity can we secure Vladimir’s freedom.

We also want to express our support for Vladimir Kara-Murza and his family during this difficult time for them.

Free Russia Foundation will continue to fight for freedom and democracy in Russia until fundamental rights are reinstated. We encourage all Russian citizens to remain courageous, not to succumb to threats, and to resist evil. Justice will always be on the side of truth and freedom, and light will inevitably overcome darkness.

The U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Russians Involved in the Prosecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza

Mar 03 2023

Today the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on several Russian officials responsible for the incarceration and prosecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a politician, journalist, human rights activist, and prisoner of conscience. The update from the U.S. Treasury Department included the names of six Russians who faced sanctions: Oleg Sviridenko, Ilya Kozlov, Elena Lenskaya, Danila Mikheev, Diana Mischenko, and Andrey Zadachin.

Oleg Sviridenko, the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, supervised the department for NGOs in the Russian Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for placing individuals on the register of “foreign agents.” Elena Lenskaya is the judge of the Basmanny District Court in Moscow who ordered Kara-Murza’s detention. Andrei Zadachin is the prosecutor of the Investigative Committee, who ruled to initiate a case of “fakes” against the politician. Danila Mikheev is the Director of the “Independent Expert Center for the Development of Humanitarian Expertise,” whose expertise has formed the basis of a number of criminal cases against Russian opposition figures. In the case against Mr. Kara-Murza, Mikheev acted as an expert and provided a report that served as the basis for the prosecution. Diana Mishchenko is the judge who issued the initial order for Kara-Murza’s arrest and sentenced him to 15 days in jail. Ilya Kozlov is the judge who rejected Kara-Murza’s appeal of Mischenko’s administrative detention order.

The sanctions imposed by the U.S. include asset freezes and entry bans into the country for individuals responsible for human rights violations and suppression of the Russian opposition activist’s freedoms.

“The U.S. Treasury joins our many national and international partners in calling for Vladimir Kara-Murza’s immediate and unconditional release,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “His arbitrary detention is another instance of the Kremlin manipulating Russia’s legal system to silence dissent. Kara-Murza, Alexei Navalny, and so many others in Russia who are unjustly imprisoned are not forgotten, and we will continue to promote accountability for perpetrators of these abuses on the international stage.”

In 2022, U.S. senators and leading human rights organizations called on President Biden to impose sanctions on those responsible for Kara-Murza’s unjust imprisonment. Amnesty International recognized Kara-Murza as a prisoner of conscience in May 2022, and in September of that year, Senators Jim Risch and Robert Menendez urged President Biden to make determination on whether Kara-Murza’s arrest constituted a gross violation of human rights and whether sanctions would be imposed on those responsible. Last October, Human Rights First formally recommended sanctions to the U.S. Treasury Department and State Department, identifying 13 Russians involved in Kara-Murza’s arrest and prosecution. In November 2022, Canada became the first country to impose sanctions on the persecutors of the Russian opposition activist.

The politician has been imprisoned in Russia since April 2022 and has been facing continuous expansion of charges against him. Initially, he was accused of spreading false information about the Russian military (under Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), which was initiated after his speech at the Arizona State House of Representatives in the United States where he referred to the bombing of residential areas and social infrastructure facilities in Ukraine. He was later charged under Article 284.1(1) of the Criminal Code for participating in the activities of an “undesirable” organization and subsequently charged with high treason (under Article 275 of the Criminal Code) for making three public appearances in Lisbon, Helsinki, and Washington, D.C., where he criticized the Russian authorities. If convicted, Vladimir Kara-Murza could face up to 25 years in prison.

In December 2022, Kara-Murza was prohibited from talking to his children on the phone by the prosecutor, who claimed that such conversations “could create a real threat to the proper conduct of criminal proceedings, as well as interfere with the production of the case.”

In March 2023, Vladimir Kara-Murza’s was placed in a punishment cell. His health deteriorated, and he began to lose sensitivity in his feet. His lawyer Vadim Prokhorov stated that his client had developed peripheral polyneuropathy as a result of two severe poisonings with military grade chemical agent.

Vladimir Kara-Murza has been involved in political activities for over 20 years. Together with Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the Russian opposition, he actively contributed to the promotion of the so-called “Magnitsky List” in the U.S. in 2012. The document launched the practice of personal sanctions against Russian officials involved in the violation of basic human rights for the first time. On February 27, 2015, Nemtsov was shot right outside the Kremlin. Kara-Murza himself nearly died in May 2015 as a result of severe poisoning with military grade chemical agent at the direction of Putin’s government. In 2017, he was hospitalized again with similar symptoms. In honor of the assassinated Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Kara-Murza organized a series of renaming of streets and squares in world capitals where Russian embassy buildings are located.

In 2022, Kara-Murza was awarded the Václav Havel Prize for Human Rights and the German Axel Springer Stiftung Prize for Courage. In 2023, the Estonian Foreign Ministry handed over the state award for Vladimir Kara-Murza – the Distinguished Service Cross II degree – to the politician’s wife, Eugenia. In letters and articles that Vladimir Kara-Murza regularly writes from SIZO No. 5, he often emphasizes that he does not regret anything, as “the price of silence is unacceptable.” He also expresses support for Russian political prisoners and their aspirations to end the war in Ukraine.

Statement on the Anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine

Feb 24 2023

Dear colleagues and friends,

Today we are marking a dark date — the anniversary of the beginning of the full-scale war in Ukraine, one of the most tragic events in the history of modern Europe. This senseless and brutal act of aggression has taken lives of tens of thousands, destroyed cities and villages, and rendered deep wounds that will take a long time to heal.

We express our deepest condolences to all those affected by this unfathomable tragedy — to those residents of Ukraine who lost their loved ones, friends, homes, and livelihood.

Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine has gone on since the morning of February 24, 2022. Russian military is launching airstrikes against military and civilian infrastructure, destroying not only airfields, military units, or oil depots, but also power plants, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and churches. The shelling of residential areas is carried out with artillery, multiple rocket launchers, and ballistic missiles, in violation of the rules of warfare, moral standards, and religious precepts.

On this day, we remember the victims of this tragedy and express our deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the victims. The hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians dead and wounded, the millions of broken lives, and the cities razed to the ground — they cannot be brought back nor forgotten. We remember those who continue to languish in the shadow of the war, suffering from its consequences.

We denounce the aggressive policy of Putin’s regime as the main cause of this war. For years, the Kremlin had conducted hybrid operations, violating Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity with impunity. Free Russia Foundation condemns Vladimir Putin and his accomplices for their role in perpetrating countless crimes against humanity. International law and Ukrainian sovereignty are inviolable and should never be threatened by other states.

Today we recognize not only the pain, loss, and suffering, but also the courage and resilience of Ukrainians who defied evil and stood shoulder to shoulder to defend their homeland. When Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, his delusional plan was for the Russian military to capture Kyiv in three days. One year later, the Russian military is nowhere near achieving that objective. We express our admiration and unconditional solidarity with the people of Ukraine who fearlessly fights for their rights to life, freedom, and independence. We pledge our support in this struggle every step of the way.

We are grateful to the Russian anti-war activists and organizations who are courageously speaking out against this war and Putin’s aggressive policies, to those who said without equivocation “No to war!” We commend the Russians who continue to fight to end this conflict. Ending this war is an absolute prerequisite for any positive future for the Russian nation.

We must not remain silent or inactive in the face of Putin’s regime and its aggressive foreign policy. Such complacency will only serve to bolster his hold on power and further his expansionist agenda. We call on our fellow compatriots in Russia to take action against Putin’s rule using all available methods, to disseminate information about the situation in Ukraine and human rights violations in Russia, to support independent media and journalists, and to endorse anti-war initiatives. Let us stand together in solidarity and fight for a better future, free from the clutches of tyranny.

We demand an immediate and unequivocal end to the inhumane war that has plagued Ukraine, and we call for the swift withdrawal of all Russian troops. Furthermore, we firmly assert that those responsible for the heinous crimes committed during this conflict must be held accountable for their actions and face justice to the fullest extent of the law. 

We urge all those who cherish peace and democratic ideals to join efforts for ending this senseless violence and offer unwavering support to those who strive for freedom and human rights of Ukrainian citizens. Light will always triumph over darkness.