“Some kind of death squad.” Political prisoner Vladimir Kara‑Murza demands investigation of attempts on his life
“Some kind of death squad.” Political prisoner Vladimir Kara‑Murza demands investigation of attempts on his life
21 May 2024, 19:33

Владимир Кара‑Мурза на видеозаписи в суде 9 октября 2023 г. Фото: Александра Астахова / Медиазона

The Moscow City Court today rejected a complaint by convicted politician Vladimir Kara-Murza against the inaction of the Investigative Committee, which failed to investigate two attempts to murder him. The hearing was held without the representatives of the Investigative Committee present, but Kara-Murza himself spoke at the hearing via video link from penal colony No. 7 in Omsk. The politician, who has just received a Pulitzer Award for his writings from behind bars, is serving a 25-year sentence on charges of high treason in extreme conditions: his health deteriorated while in prison, and the colony administration constantly placed him in a punishment cell. Mediazona publishes a speech in which Kara-Murza recalls the attempts on his life and how law enforcers sabotaged the investigation.

I ask you to cancel the 22 February 2024 ruling of the Zamoskvoretskiy Court. Signed by Judge [Yuri] Rakhmatov, it is a truly outstanding document, because, as a rule, unjust and illegal court decisions, which we unfortunately see very often in our country, try to maintain some semblance of plausibility.

The untruth is usually hidden in innuendos and twists. But the appealed judgement contains blatant and documented lies. And this alone is sufficient it to be quashed.

Briefly on the substance of this case itself. Twice—in May 2015 and February 2017—I found myself in intensive care, in a coma, with multiple organ failure and a diagnosis of “toxic effect of an unspecified substance.” And, as the doctors told my wife, with a five per cent chance of survival.

Both my colleagues and I had no doubt from the beginning that these poisonings were related to working for the opposition against the current regime, primarily for my active participation in promoting the Magnitsky Act in a number of democratic countries, which imposed personal visa and financial sanctions against Kremlin officials involved in corruption and human rights violations.

These assumptions were confirmed in February 2021, when a joint journalistic investigation was published by the international media group Bellingcat, the Russian publication The Insider and the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Attempted poisoning and 25-year sentence of Vladimir Kara-Murza

The first time Vladimir Kara-Murza, who actively lobbied in the West for personal sanctions against Russian law enforcers and officials, was hospitalised on 27 May 2015, he was put into a medically induced sleep in a serious condition. He was awaken when the danger to his life had passed. Subsequently, Western experts revealed a significant excess of four metals in his organism, and the politician filed the first attempted assassination report with the Investigative Committee.

In February 2017, the politician was hospitalised again, with similar symptoms. He also filed a poisoning report, which the law enforcers did not pursue. His test results were handed over to the FBI in the US, but the study was classified. Later, journalists from several publications in a joint investigation found that Kara-Murza had been followed by the same FSB officers who had followed Alexei Navalny before he was poisoned.

Kara-Murza tried to get the Russian security forces to investigate the assassination attempts and complained about the inaction to the courts, but with no success.

The politician was detained on 11 April 2022, shortly after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He was sent to a pre-trial detention centre in a case of spreading “fakes” about the Russian army—for a speech at the Arizona state House of Representatives. In the speech, Kara-Murza said that “Putin’s regime is dropping bombs on residential areas, on hospitals and schools.”

Soon after, two more criminal cases were added. The pretext for the first one, about participation in an “undesirable” organisation, was a round table on political prisoners in 2021—according to the investigation, the event was held with money from the US-based Free Russia Foundation. The second, on high treason, was initiated for speeches in Lisbon, Oslo, and Washington in 2021-2022, in which Kara-Murza spoke about censorship and political persecution in Russia.

During the trial, which was closed from the public, Kara-Murza was held in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre. According to his lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, the politician was diagnosed with polyneuropathy—a lesion of nerve endings, which prevents him from serving his sentence. A year after his arrest, in April 2023, the Moscow City Court sentenced Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison. The US, EU, and UK imposed sanctions against the judges and law enforcers involved in his prosecution.

Prokhorov left Russia soon after the verdict was announced. He said that law enforcers had hinted that a criminal case could be opened against him. When the verdict came into force, Kara-Murza was transferred to the high-security penal colony No. 6 in Omsk, where he was transported separately from other prisoners and later regularly sent to a punishment cell on spurious pretexts. In January 2024, he was taken to another institution - special regime colony No. 7, where he was immediately sent to solitary confinement for four months.

In the course of this investigation, it was established... I would like to point out that we are talking about the inaction of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee in the inquiry into two attempts on my life. I am talking about the circumstances of these attempts, it is directly related to the essence of the case.

A journalistic investigation was published in February 2021 which established the specific names of four FSB officers: [Konstantin] Kudryavtsev, [Roman] Mezentsev, [Alexander] Samofal, [Valery] Sukharev. Before both poisonings, they tacitly accompanied me on trips to Russian regions, from Tomsk to Kaliningrad. Including the trip in May 2015, when I was in a coma for the first time.

I should add that some of the same FSB officers, according to the journalistic investigation, were involved in the surveillance of Boris Nemtsov before his murder and in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

Apparently, we are talking about some kind of death squad. About a group of professional assassins in the service of the state.

A few days after the publication of this journalistic investigation, on 18 February 2021, I sent a criminal complaint under Article 141 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee, Mr Bastrykin, stating all the known circumstances, specifying the names of the alleged perpetrators of the poisonings, and demanding that a criminal case be opened for two attempted murders.

This statement about the offence was referred for verification to the IC’s Moscow division.

As the court is well aware, Article 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure contains a very clear and exhaustive set of actions to be taken by the investigative body upon receipt of such a statement: to obtain specific information about the circumstances and alleged perpetrators of the two attempts to murder a Russian citizen.

IC’s Main Directorate did nothing at all. This is why I appealed against the inaction of the Investigative Committee in the Zamoskvoretsky District Court of Moscow. And here, Your Honour, I return to Judge Rakhmatov's ruling.

In refusing to recognise the unlawful inaction of the Investigative Committee’s Main Investigation Department in the investigation of my two poisonings, Judge Rakhmatov writes, in particular, and I will quote:

End of quote. Sounds beautiful, but all this is a direct, documented lie. You have copies of two documents at your disposal as annexes to the appeal: a letter from the acting head of the Investigative Department for the Khamovniki District and an effective ruling of the Khamovnicheskiy District Court of Moscow dated 17 September 2021.

Both of these documents confirm that my statement about the offense was not transferred to the Khamovniki District Investigation Department, was not registered there, was not examined there, and no verification was carried out.

Thus, all these investigative actions, which Judge Rakhmatov so convincingly lists in his ruling, were carried out in 2015, 2016, 2017 and by definition cannot be related to the statement of February 2021. They were conducted as part of another material check, long before the names of my poisoners became known thanks to the journalistic investigation.

Thus, the inaction of the IC’s Moscow City Investigation Department was so demonstrative that they not only failed to carry out any of their own checks, but did not even bother to pass the material on to a lower investigative body. And in his endeavour to cover up their inaction, Judge Rakhmatov committed outright forgery.

Your Honour, I am not a naive person. I have been in Russian politics for almost 25 years and all this time I have been in opposition to the current regime. Believe me, I am well aware of the reality in which our country exists today.

I’m joining you now from a penal colony in the city of Omsk, where I am serving a 25-year sentence for my public statements against the regime of Vladimir Putin. I am not at all surprised that attempted assassinations of opposition politicians will not be investigated. This applies to attempts on the life of Boris Nemtsov, Alexei Navalny, and all crimes of this kind.

But I must confess that I was still a little surprised that the Main Investigative Directorate did not even pretend that it was going to investigate anything.

I’m asking the Moscow City Court to overturn the Zamoskvoretsky Court’s ruling of 22 February 2024, to declare illegal the complete inaction of the Investigative Committee in the investigation of the two attempts to kill me, and to oblige the Investigative Committee staff, if not to do their job, then at least to follow procedures.

Editor: Yegor Skovoroda

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