Opinion Vladimir Kara-Murza from jail: Russia will be free. I’ve never been so sure.

Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza lays flowers during a memorial for Boris Nemtsov on the sixth anniversary of his murder, on Feb. 27, 2021. (Mihail Siergiejevicz/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)
Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza lays flowers during a memorial for Boris Nemtsov on the sixth anniversary of his murder, on Feb. 27, 2021. (Mihail Siergiejevicz/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: On Monday, Russian human rights activist and Post contributing columnist Vladimir Kara-Murza gave an interview in Moscow to CNN in which he harshly criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A few hours later, he was picked up by police and summarily sentenced to 15 days in jail on a charge of disobeying law enforcement. Kara-Murza sent this column to The Post through his lawyer.

Sofia Kalistratova, the legendary Moscow lawyer who defended dissidents in the “anti-Soviet” trials of the 1960s and 1970s, told her charges: “Everyone else may cross the street on a red light, but you must always cross on green.” She knew that her clients couldn’t give the authorities the slightest excuse to accuse them of breaking the law.

Read this column in Russian: Россия будет свободной. Никогда не был уверен в этом так, как сегодня.

I have always tried to follow this principle. True, my lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, says that if this advice worked in the ’60s, it definitely doesn’t work now: “They’ll just go ahead and write that you crossed the street on purple. And then they’ll accuse you of inventing a nonexistent light and maliciously crossing on it.”

Vadim was right, and almost literally. When I returned home on Monday evening and began to park my car, five or six police officers of the Second Special Regiment of Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate, who had been waiting at the entrance, rushed at me, hustled me into their minibus, took away my phone and drove me to the Khamovniki police station.

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According to the police report filed later, when I caught sight of the waiting officers, I “changed the trajectory of my movement,” “accelerated my pace” and offered them “active resistance.”

Orwell lives on: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

And yet there was one true statement that made it into the verdict of the Khamovniki district court in Moscow during my subsequent trial: It noted that the court’s decision took “data on the personality of V.V. Kara-Murza” into account. Everyone who participated in the process, including Judge Diana Mishchenko and the Interior Ministry officers who brought me to the court, understood that the only reason for my arrest was my political and, above all, antiwar position.

In fact, no one hid it. When the officers of the Khamovniki Police Department, who brought me to Special Detention Center No. 2 in Khoroshevo-Mnevniki to serve out my sentence, rang the doorbell, they said: “Here’s a political for you. They should have called you from headquarters.”

There are many “politicals” — people targeted for political reasons — doing time in Russia right now. Even in the Khamovniki police station, where I spent the first day after my detention in a stone box measuring 2-by-3 meters, I met two young women in neighboring cells who had been picked up for writing antiwar graffiti. Among the inmates in the special detention center are a young man and woman who had staged a protest in response to the murders in Bucha, Ukraine. There are also students of the Higher School of Economics who were detained for an antiwar demonstration. And these are only those whom I myself saw in two days in two places in Moscow.

When you are told that no one protests against the war in Russia, don’t believe it. Hundreds of people who took part in such protests are imprisoned in police stations and special detention facilities. The police grab them immediately and take them away. And there are no more media outlets in Russia that can talk about it.

Yet the attitude toward “politicals” is good — both among the prison staff and the inmates. In this sense, nothing has changed since the dissidents of the 1970s. I wrote this phrase and thought, So we’re walking in the same circle. We never managed to break out of it in the short window of opportunity in the ’90s. But we’ll get out one day, for sure. There will be another window of opportunity — and this time we need to use it correctly. There will be a dawn. The night, as you know, is darkest just before the light.

As Boris Nemtsov liked to say: “We can do it.” Russia will be free. I’ve never been so sure of it as I am today.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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