GENEVA (AP) — An imprisoned Russian opposition activist who was honored by a human rights advocacy group dedicated his award to the thousands of people who have been arrested or detained in Russia for protesting President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization that promotes human rights and tries to ensure that the United Nations does, too, gave Vladimir Kara-Murza its highest human rights award. The Morris Abram award commemorates the group’s founder — a civil rights advocate, diplomat and delegate to the United Nations.
Kara-Murza’s wife, Yevgeniya, accepted the award on his behalf during a ceremony late Thursday and read a letter from her husband that hailed the journalists, lawyers, artists, priests, politicians, military officers and others “who have refused to say silent in front of this atrocity, even at the cost of personal freedom.”
“Since February, over 19,000 people were detained by police across Russia for anti-war protests,” the letter said. “I want to dedicate this award to all of them.”
Kara-Murza, 41, cited recent figures from Memorial, a Russian human rights group that shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, that there are now some 500 political prisoners in Russia.
“In the time of my own imprisonment, I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand, just how incomplete this figure really is,” he wrote. “And the fastest-growing segment on Russia’s political prisoner list are opponents of Putin’s war on Ukraine.”
Kara-Murza was an associate of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was slain near the Kremlin in 2015. He himself survived poisonings in 2015 and 2017 that he blamed on the Kremlin. Russian officials have denied responsibility for the poisonings.
He was jailed in April on a charge of spreading “false information” about the Russian military. Russia adopted a law criminalizing spreading “false information” about its military shortly after Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Authorities have used the law against dozens of people to stifle opposition.
Russian authorities recently added treason charges to other charges against Murza. The charges stem from speeches he gave in several Western countries that criticized the Kremlin’s rule, according to his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov.
Kara-Murza denies committing treason, his lawyer says. If convicted, he faces a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Last month, Kara-Murza was awarded the Council of Europe’s Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize as a Moscow court extended his detention until Dec. 12.