US sanctions six Russians over arrest of opposition politician Kara-Murza

Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice chairman of Open Russia, testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington
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By Katharine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on six Russians it said were involved in the arrest, prosecution or abuse of Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was detained last year after speaking out against the war in Ukraine.

Kara-Murza was arrested by Russia in April and declared a "foreign agent". He is currently being held on suspicion of spreading false information about the armed forces under new laws passed eight days after the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine began.

"The United States reiterates its call for Kara-Murza’s immediate and unconditional release, and is committed to ensuring that Vladimir Putin’s attempts to silence critics will not succeed," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The sanctions, announced by the Treasury and State departments, target Russians Elena Anatolievna Lenskaya, Andrei Andreevich Zadachin and Danila Yurievich Mikheev for serious human rights abuses under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Act.

The Treasury Department said Zadachin, a Russian special investigator, ordered that a criminal case be filed against Kara-Murza over a speech he made to the Arizona House of Representatives.

It further said that Lenskaya, a judge in Moscow, ordered that Kara-Murza be detained, and that Mikheev had appeared as an expert witness for the Russian government, reviewing video of the speech and providing a report which led to charges against the opposition leader.

Kara-Murza, who holds both British and Russian citizenship and was a pallbearer at the 2018 funeral of U.S. Senator John McCain, was a close aide to opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in central Moscow in 2015.

Twice, in 2015 and 2017, Kara-Murza became suddenly ill in what he said were poisonings by the Russian security services, on both occasions falling into a coma before eventually recovering. Moscow denied involvement.

Kara-Murza has pushed for the United States, Canada, the European Union and Britain to use Magnitsky-style sanctions to target human rights abusers and corrupt actors in Russia, the Treasury Department said.

The U.S. State Department also imposed visa restrictions on Lenskaya and Zadachin, denying them and their immediate families entry into the United States.

In a related action, the State Department imposed sanctions on Russia's Deputy Minister of Justice Oleg Mikhailovich Sviridenko, Diana Igorevna Mishchenko, who is the judge who ruled that Kara-Murza be arrested, and Ilya Pavlovich Kozlov, the judge who denied Kara-Murza's appeal of the arrest ruling, the department said.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson; additional reporting by Rami Ayyub; editing by Tim Ahmann and Angus MacSwan)