The full text of Evgenia Kara-Murza’s letter to the College
I am deeply grateful to Vladimir’s Alma mater for honouring him today and for making sure he is not forgotten despite the Putin regime’s efforts to completely isolate him from the outside world.
I am lucky to be sharing my life with a man of integrity. A man to whom decisions come easy because his values are clear. A warrior, a patriot.
This man, today, needs my voice to continue carrying his message from a Russian prison because, having survived two attempts on his life by a team of assassins in the service of the Russian State, Vladimir was arbitrarily charged, tried and sentenced to a quarter of a century of strict regime for so-called “high treason.”
Last year, after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine had broken out, Vladimir believed it his duty, as a Russian politician, to show by his example that giving in to fear and intimidation is a choice, even in the face of the well-oiled and increasingly cruel repressive machine of Putin’s regime.
Indeed, in the words of Winston Churchill: “Never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Vladimir’s speeches that served as grounds for the criminal charges against him publicly denounced the war crimes committed by the Russian army; called for the creation of a Nuremberg-style tribunal to prosecute all those responsible; and raised awareness about the rising number of political prisoners in the Russian Federation, total censorship of the media, and the de-facto destruction of the Russian constitution through a so-called “referendum”.
As Vladimir wrote from prison: “According to the indictment, my speeches “threatened the security and constitutional order of the Russian Federation,” “damaged the international reputation of the Russian Federation,” and gave Russia an “image as an aggressor state in the eyes of the international community.” While flattered by the Investigative Committee’s assessment of my influence, I must admit that Putin has done a much better job on all three counts than I ever could.”
After years of giving his voice to hundreds of political prisoners in the Russian Federation, Vladimir has become one himself. Since September 21st of this year, he is being held in a punishment cell of a maximum-security prison colony in Omsk, Siberia, about 3,000 km away from Moscow. A man, who survived two assassination attacks by FSB operatives and is suffering from a serious medical condition because of that, is being held in complete isolation in a cell that measures 3m by 1,5m with a bed that is affixed to the wall from 6am to 10 pm every day.
Sharing your life with a person of integrity is not always easy. For such people, there can be no compromises in matters of principle which is absolutely admirable but trying at times for those who love them. Integrity, I believe, serves as the foundation of that courage that great American statesman John McCain described as “not the absence of fear but the capacity to act despite our fears”. I couldn’t be prouder of my husband for having this kind of integrity and couldn’t wish for a better example for our kids.
Top image features Evgenia collecting the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, image credit: Council of Europe. Middle image is of Vladimir Kara-Murza, image credit: Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.