The West must help Vladimir Kara-Murza achieve freedom

Learn more about Ellen Bork.
Ellen Bork
George W. Bush Institute

Vladimir Kara-Murza was recently sentenced to 25 years in a Russian penal colony for his criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Bush Institute continues to speak out against Kara-Murza's unjust detention and advocate for his freedom.    

On April 19, 2023, Ellen Bork, fellow at the Bush Institute, gave remarks on Capitol Hill at an event in support of Kara-Murza.  

Read her remarks below.

Authoritarian regimes like to conflate themselves with their countries so that criticism or pressure on them can be portrayed as anti-Russian, or anti-China.   

What Vladimir Kara-Murza has done effectively over and over again, now at great cost to himself and his family, is to show that President Vladimir Putin is not Russia and Putin does not act in the name of all Russians.        

This important distinction is central to the Magnitsky sanctions, which Vladimir along with his mentor Boris Nemtsov helped to bring about. They argued that the sanctions are inherently “pro-Russian” because they operate on behalf of Russians victimized by corrupt and repressive Russians. 

Without this effort by Vladimir, Nemtsov, and Bill Browder, there would still be a vacuum in U.S. law that was created when the U.S., motivated by wishful thinking about the Chinese Communist Party, decided to end the linkage between human rights and trade status more than 20 years ago.  

So, they helped all of us enormously in our efforts.  

Now we are trying to help Vladimir.  

There are multiple rationales and levers that can be used to seek Vladimir’s freedom:   

  • More sanctions by more countries directed at those responsible not only for Vladimir’s treatment but also more broadly for Russia’s repression and corruption.  
  • Vladimir’s dual Russian-British citizenship creates an opportunity and an obligation for the U.K.    
  • Also, Vladimir’s status as a permanent resident of the U.S. should lead the Biden Administration to declare that he has been wrongly detained.    
  • Above all, there is America’s history of advocating for human rights activists and dissidents in the Soviet Union and Russia.  Vladimir stands on the shoulders of those dissidents – Bukovsky, Sharansky, Sakharov, Alexeeva, Bonner. 

Vladimir is a proud Russian.  He always says that Russians themselves will change Russia, but that we in the U.S. have a role to play by staying true to our principles. And that it undermines democrats struggling abroad if we do not. 

President Joe Biden has made the struggle between democracy and dictatorships a priority. There could be no better proof of the president’s commitment to that struggle than to achieve Vladimir’s freedom by devoting as much time and effort and resources as necessary.  

Edited for length and clarity.