‘Stop meddling in Kara-Murza’s case or we’ll kick you out,’ Russia warns Western diplomats
MOSCOW, 18 April (Reuters) – Russia has accused the ambassadors of Britain, the US and Canada of interfering in its internal affairs after they condemned the treason conviction of a prominent opposition politician, and warned that they risk expulsion in future.
On Monday, a Moscow court jailed Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza – who holds Russian and British passports – for 25 years after convicting him of treason in a trial he and the West said was politically motivated. It was the harshest sentence of its kind since Russia invaded Ukraine.
For years Kara-Murza (41) successfully lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for purported human rights violations.
He also condemned what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The ambassadors of Britain, the US and Canada made a joint appearance in front of TV cameras on the steps of the Moscow court after his verdict to condemn the ruling and demand his release.
British ambassador Deborah Bronnert delivered her remarks in Russian so that Russian-language TV channels could potentially broadcast them.
Traitors… who are applauded in the West will get what they deserve.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the diplomats’ behaviour was unacceptable.
“It’s direct interference in Russia’s internal affairs,” ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, calling the move an attempt to put pressure on the Russian judiciary.
Referencing what she said were human rights violations in the three relevant Western countries, Zakharova said it was cynical for the same nations to now demand the release of someone she called “an agent of influence” financed by the West.
“Attempts to pressure Russia’s government and its independent judiciary are bound to fail. Traitors… who are applauded in the West will get what they deserve,” Zakharova said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Putin critic jailed in treason case for 25 years in harshest verdict yet
Britain – which in 2020 imposed sanctions on the judge who presided over Kara-Murza’s case for alleged human rights violations – on Monday summoned the Russian ambassador to protest.
Kara-Murza himself compared his trial, which was held behind closed doors, to one of Joseph Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s.
Pro-Kremlin politicians and commentators described him as a long-standing “accomplice” of Washington who had helped the West craft effective sanctions against Russia, treasonous behaviour for which they said he deserved to be jailed.
Zakharova told Western diplomats to stay out of Russia’s domestic affairs or risk being sent home.
“Any actions of the United States, Britain and Canada… aimed at inciting discord and enmity in our society will be dealt with in the most decisive way and the diplomats involved in this subversive work will be expelled from Russia,” she said. Reuters/DM
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Angus MacSwan)