Opinion The truths Vladimir Kara-Murza spoke that Putin wants suppressed

Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza speaks to a Senate subcommittee on Capitol Hill in D.C. on March 29, 2017. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

In a CNN interview on April 11, Post contributing columnist Vladimir Kara-Murza said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime is “not just corrupt, it’s not just kleptocratic, it’s not just authoritarian, it is a regime of murderers.” Hours later, he was arrested in Moscow on initial charges of disobeying the police and sentenced to 15 days in jail.

On April 22, he was charged with “spreading deliberately false information” about the armed forces of Russia. Under a new law imposed by Putin after his invasion of Ukraine, that act is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Kara-Murza, a permanent resident of the United States, is currently in pretrial detention.

This is not the first time that Kara-Murza has been targeted. He has been poisoned twice, in 2015 and 2017, but has never stopped championing human rights. As a journalist and political activist, he has long spoken truths about Russia and its people — truths that the regime has repeatedly tried to suppress.

This collection of some of his columns for The Post expands on these truths — some of them eerily prescient.

Why is Putin so afraid of competition?

Jan. 12, 2018

Kara-Murza became a Global Opinions contributing columnist in January 2018. In one of his early columns, Kara-Murza addresses the question of Putin’s popularity among Russians. “Not once during his 18 years in power has Vladimir Putin faced off against a genuine challenger,” he points out.

“Western commentators who buy into the Kremlin line about Putin’s ‘popularity’ among Russian citizens would do well to remember that this assertion has never been tested in a free and fair election against credible opponents,” Kara-Murza argued.

Read more: If Putin is so popular, why is he so afraid of competition?

Russians haven’t forgotten Boris Nemtsov

March 6, 2019

Kara-Murza worked closely for years with Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in 2015.

“After four years, Russia’s most high-profile political assassination remains unsolved and unpunished,” Kara-Murza wrote. “Beyond the immediate perpetrators — all of them linked to the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov — no organizers or masterminds have been indicted or tried. … Russian authorities have pointedly refused to classify the murder of the opposition leader as a political crime. As far as they are concerned, the Nemtsov case is closed.”

But it has not been forgotten, especially by Kara-Murza and others like him. “Just as in life, in death Nemtsov continues to bring together the different shades of Russia’s fragmented opposition,” he explained.

Read more: It’s been four years since the murder of Boris Nemtsov. Russians haven’t forgotten.

Will Europe’s last two dictators fall together?

Aug. 20, 2020

Many of Kara-Murza’s columns have proved to be incredibly farsighted — including this one from 2020 about the relationship between Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Since February, Lukashenko has firmly supported Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine, allowing Russia to host troops and weapons in Belarus.

Calling the pair “Europe’s two remaining dictators,” Kara-Murza wrote: “Despite their personal animosity, their regimes have depended on each other in important ways. Over the years Minsk has received support from Russia in the form of cheap energy and export markets, while the Kremlin has used Belarus as a model for its own authoritarian consolidation.”

Read more: Europe’s last two dictators have stood together for decades. Will they fall together, too?

I called up my would-be killer

Feb. 23, 2021

In February 2021, an investigation by Bellingcat, the Insider and Der Spiegel identified operatives of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) who were likely responsible for the two poisoning attacks on Kara-Murza. Kara-Murza decided to call one of them on the phone.

“For a few seconds, I listened to the voice of the man whose job, it appears, is to physically eliminate people like myself, opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Kara-Murza wrote.

“It’s worth pausing for a moment to think just how extraordinary that is: a European government in the 21st century is operating a professional squad of assassins tasked with killing its opponents.”

Read more: I called up my would-be killer. He didn’t want to talk.

My Kafkaesque trial in Moscow

April 8, 2021

About a month later, Kara-Murza attended a conference in Moscow for lawmakers and voters to discuss grass-roots campaigning and local elections. As the forum was beginning, police officers marched into the meeting room and took the participants into custody. Around 200 people were detained, most of whom were democratically elected lawmakers.

Kara-Murza wrote both of his arrest and subsequent trial — which he described as involving a “a distinctly Kafkaesque feeling.”

“Even the most grotesque fables in ‘The Trial’ pale in comparison with the reality of the judicial system under Vladimir Putin,” he wrote.

Read more: My trial in Moscow this week was an exercise in absurdity

The West must stop enabling Putin

Jan. 7, 2022

In January, Kara-Murza wrote a column with an urgent — and, it turns out, prophetic — message for the West.

“If the speed and intensity of Putin’s new wave of repression are surprising, the trajectory is not,” he wrote, reacting to a series of repressive acts by the Putin government over the holiday season.

“What is more surprising — indeed, shocking — is the willingness of Western democracies to act as accomplices to Putin, providing him not only with much-needed international acceptance but also with a lifeline in the form of access to Western financial systems — a lifeline the Kremlin uses to challenge the West’s own interests.”

Read more: The West has enabled Putin long enough. It is time to stop.

Russia will be free. I’ve never been so sure.

April 15, 2022

Writing from jail while serving his initial 15-day sentence in April, Kara-Murza bravely described his arrest and what he witnessed around him in prison.

“I met two young women in neighboring cells who had been picked up for writing antiwar graffiti,” he wrote. “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,” he explained, “don’t believe it.”

He ends on a hopeful note — one that will not surprise those who know him: “There will be a dawn. The night, as you know, is darkest just before the light.”

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

Read in Russian