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FRANCE 24 spoke to Evgenia Kara-Murza, the wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition activist who was recently sentenced to 25 years in jail by a Moscow court for “high treason” because of his outspoken criticism of the war in Ukraine. Kara-Murza sent a message to her jailed husband: she will “never stop fighting” for him. She also discussed the current situation in Russia and said she felt unable to return there as she feared the authorities would arrest her to “put pressure” on her husband.
Speaking to FRANCE 24 from Washington, Evgenia Kara-Murza said her “only contact” with her jailed husband “since his arrest in April of last year has been through his lawyers”.
Although “his spirit is and has always been very strong”, “his health, unfortunately, is not that good,” she said of her husband. She explained that Kara-Murza has a nerve condition called polyneuropathy – a consequence of two severe poisonings in Russia in 2015 and 2017 – and that “his symptoms seem to be getting worse” in jail.
Asked why activists like her husband and jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny return to Russia despite the risks, she said: “People who protest in Russia nowadays face the entire arsenal of Soviet-style repressive techniques that include punitive psychiatry, torture, physical violence, sexual violence and prison terms going up to 15 years for just saying no to the war (…) So Vladimir that believed that it was his duty to stand with these people fighting the regime in Russia.”
Asked if she would consider returning to Russia, she replied: “If I go to Russia, I will be imprisoned – not because I’m someone important, not because the authorities are afraid of me as they are afraid of Vladimir – but because they would want to hold me hostage to put pressure on Vladimir. I cannot allow for this to happen. I cannot put my husband in this situation.”
Kara-Murza called on Western governments to “adopt sanctions against those people who have been proven to have been implicated in gross human rights violations”.
Asked about her husband’s belief that “the day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate”, she said: “Every dictator believes himself to be invincible until he falls. So it will happen with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin as well. But it’s not going happen if we don’t do anything to bring this day closer.”
Kara-Murza said the downfall of the Putin regime would depend on a number of factors. She went on to cite “Ukraine‘s victory in this war on Ukraine’s terms”; “economic sanctions that would weaken the regime” plus “targeted sanctions” against top Russian individuals; as well as “support and solidarity with that part of Russian civil society that continues protesting both inside and outside of the country.”
“Everything should be done to make this regime collapse so that people can get a chance at building a democracy in our country,” she added.
She concluded with a message for her husband: “I love him, I want him back and I will never stop fighting for him.”
Evgenia Kara-Murza is scheduled to speak at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy on May 17.
This story originally appeared on France24