TALLINN, Estonia — Lawyers for Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., who is serving a 25-year sentence for treason, revealed Tuesday he has been transferred to another prison in Siberia and placed in solitary confinement again over an alleged minor infraction.
The unrelenting pressure on Russian dissidents at home and abroad has intensified significantly since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine almost two years ago.
Kara-Murza, 42, had been held in a penal colony in the Omsk region, but his supporters said on Monday he apparently was no longer there.
One of his lawyers, Maria Eismont, told Russia's independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper that she received a letter in which he said he was transferred to Penal Colony No. 7 in the city of Omsk and placed in a restricted housing unit for at least four months. In the letter, a copy of which his other lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, posted on Facebook, Kara-Murza said prison officials on Friday accused him of disobeying a command that he said wasn't even given to him.
“So now I'm in the IK-7 (penal colony), also in Omsk,” Kara-Murza wrote. “It is a special regime colony, there is a special restricted housing unit facility for ‘repeat violators’ like me. I'm in solitary confinement, of course,” he wrote, adding that he was “fine," had enough food and it was warm in the facility.
Kara-Murza, who twice survived poisonings that he blamed on Russian authorities, has rejected the charges against him as punishment for standing up to Putin and likened the proceedings to the show trials under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
According to his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, he spent the past four months in solitary confinement, a practice that has become common for Kremlin critics and is widely viewed as designed to put additional pressure on them.
Kara-Murza was arrested in 2022 and sentenced to 25 years on charges stemming from a speech that year to the Arizona House of Representatives, in which he denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Memorial, which is Russia’s most prominent human rights group and winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, has declared him a political prisoner.
Moves to neutralize opposition and stifle criticism intensified significantly after the start of the war, including passage of a law effectively criminalizing any public expression about the conflict that deviates from the Kremlin line. The legislation that outlaws “spreading false information” about the Russian army or “discrediting it” has been used against opposition politicians, human rights activists and ordinary Russians critical of the Kremlin, with many receiving long prison terms.
This week, Russia's lower parliament house — the State Duma — was set to consider another restrictive bill that would allow authorities in some cases to seize property belonging to those convicted of “spreading false information” about the army. The main, second reading of the bill was scheduled for Wednesday.
According to OVD-Info, a prominent rights group that monitors political arrests and provides legal aid, a total of 19,854 Russians have been arrested between Feb. 24, 2022, when the war began, and Jan. 28, 2024, for speaking out or demonstrating against the invasion.
A total of 825 people have faced criminal charges for their antiwar stances, and nearly 8,700 faced petty charges of discrediting the army, punishable by a fine or a short stint in jail, OVD-Info reported.