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The leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on Russia to release Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition politician who was detained after criticizing Vladimir Putin’s government and now faces charges that could keep him imprisoned for years.

“The Putin regime’s new fabricated charges against Vladimir Kara-Murza are a testament to Putin’s deeply held fear of the Russian people knowing the truth,” Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and ranking member Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said in a statement.

“Kara-Murza’s efforts to shine a light on the Russian regime’s atrocities in Ukraine are the latest in his lifetime dedicated to exposing the truth by providing unbiased reporting for the Russian people and the world, and by building international consensus around tools to hold the Putin regime to account,” Menendez and Risch said. They called on the Kremlin to “release Vladimir and all those detained for fighting on behalf of a better future for their country.”

Kara-Murza is accused of violating a recently enacted law outlawing the spread of false information about the Russian armed forces, according to statements posted to social media on Friday by his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, and his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov. The update to the criminal code, known as article 207.3, carries a 15-year maximum prison sentence.

Human Rights Watch leader Hugh Williamson decried the “fake news” law as being “part of Russia’s ruthless effort to suppress all dissent.” Amnesty International called the criminal investigation against Kara-Murza “an act of political poison that seeks to terrify and silence all opponents of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.” Evgenia Kara-Murza wrote on Twitter that her husband faces years in prison “for saying no to Putin and his bloody war!”

Russian court documents reportedly accused Kara-Murza of spreading false information about the Kremlin military when he spoke to the Arizona House of Representatives last month. The Arizona House Democrats’ official Twitter account called Kara-Murza’s treatment “abhorrent and disgraceful.”

Kara-Murza has survived two suspected poisoning attempts, and has been described as one of Russia’s most important dissidents. He was detained on April 12, shortly after CNN published a video in which the dissident described Putin’s power apparatus as “a regime of murderers.” Another opposition figure, Ilya Yashin, reported at the time that Kara-Murza had been jailed for 15 days. Yashin said on Twitter that the police report in Kara-Murza’s case alleged that he “behaved inappropriately, changed the trajectory of movement and accelerated his step.”

Kevin Breuninger

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