“We will not be silent on this” says Havel Library chief on Kara-Murza jailing

Vladimir Kara-Murza

Russian journalist and politician Vladimir Kara-Murza received a 25-year jail term on Monday on charges linked to his criticism of the war in Ukraine. It is the longest sentence Russia has handed down to an opposition figure since it launched the invasion. Mr. Kara-Murza, who also has UK citizenship, won the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize last year and I discussed his case with Michael Žantovský, head of the Václav Havel Library in Prague.

Michael Žantovský | Photo: Martina Schneibergová,  Radio Prague International

“I think it’s a typical Stalinist type trial, with a draconian punishment for verbal statements that are the human right of every citizen, every individual, in a normal country.

“It’s disgusting and it cannot go unnoticed and unpunished by people in the West, by Britain, which is a country of his citizenship, by the United States, where he was a resident for a considerable amount of time, and everywhere, including this country.

“Vladimir Kara-Murza is my friend, I consider him my friend, and we will not be silent on this.”

But how can the West in some sense punish the Russians for what they have done to him?

“Well, we’ve had, what, 10 rounds of sanctions in the European Union, some of them more effective than others.

“I believe an act like this calls for harsher sanctions.

“They should start with outlawing and making outcasts of every person in the Russian judiciary who has been involved in this.

“And also their political bosses, because just like during the times of Stalin the instruction to punish people in this way does not come the court, it comes from above – it comes from the Kremlin.”

Amnesty International calls Vladimir Kara-Murza a prisoner of conscience. How much are people like him and Alexei Navalny analogous to the political prisoners of the communist era?

“They resemble them and are like them in almost every aspect of the word.

“The difference may be that the in the Soviet times the dissidents did not have a choice of leaving the country.

“Vladimir Kara-Murza spent a long time outside Russia and he went back voluntarily.

“He went back knowing that this might and probably will happen to him.

“And that makes his courage and heroism even larger.”