It was thought prominent opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza would be released next week but a criminal case has now opened against him
A criminal case has been opened against a prominent Russian political activist who was arrested earlier this month on “absurd” claims he had acted “erratically” after seeing police officers.
The case against the Vladimir Kara-Murza was opened on suspicion of spreading false information about Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, his lawyer said on Friday.
The father-of-three was detained outside his home in Moscow on 11 April, hours after CNN aired an interview in which he criticised Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
He was later sentenced to 15 days in jail for disobeying police orders upon being detained, Mr Kara-Murza’s lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, said at the time. Mr Kara-Murza has not been formally charged and Mr Prokhorov denies his client broke the law.
“Vladimir Kara-Murza is now at the main investigation Department of Russia’s Investigative Committee,” Mr Prokhorov wrote on Facebook.
“A criminal case has been opened… for ‘public dissemination of deliberately false information about Russia’s armed forces,” he said, without elaborating when precisely the case had been opened.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, the state body that probes major crimes, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russia’s parliament last month passed a law that provides for jail terms of up to 15 years for those convicted of intentionally spreading “fake” news about what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Russian officials said the new law was needed to protect its military and combat misinformation about its military campaign in Ukraine.
Mr Kara-Murza’s wife, Evgenia, said in an interview with i earlier this week that her husband, who returned to Russia to campaign against the regime despite almost dying when he was poisoned in 2015 and 2017, had been arrested on “absurd” claims.
Mr Kara-Murza was alleged to have “behaved erratically after seeing police officers, changed the trajectory of his movement, quickened his pace and responded to the demand to stop by trying to flee,” according to his lawyer. The politician denies attempting to evade the police.
Mr Kara-Murza described in an open letter sent to the Washington Post via his lawyer shortly after being sentenced how he was arrested on returning home by five or six police officers who “rushed at me, hustled me into their minibus, took away my phone and drove me to the Khamovniki police station”. He said it was clear during his trial that everyone involved in his case “understood that the only reason for my arrest was my political and, above all, antiwar position”.
Despite warnings not to return to Russia amid the brutal crackdown on dissidents, Mr Kara-Murza was adamant he had to continue campaigning for democracy from his homeland.
Bill Browder revealed in his recent interview with i that he had met with Mr Kara-Murza for dinner in London earlier this month and pleaded with his “dear friend” not to risk his life by going back to Russia.
But asked in an interview before his arrest how he dared return to Moscow, Mr Kara-Murza said: “I’m a Russian politician, I have to be in Russia, it is my home country. I think the biggest gift we could give, those of us who are in opposition to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s regime, to the Kremlin would be to just give up and run, that’s all they want from us.”