ICYMI: Shaheen, Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge Secretary Blinken to Impose Magnitsky Law Sanctions on Russian Officials Responsible for Poisoning and Jailing of Opposition Leader Vladimir Kara-Murza

August 08, 2022

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, sent a letter with a bipartisan group of Senators led by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to swiftly impose Magnitsky law-related sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the arrest, jailing and poisoning of Russian-opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza. 

The Senators’ letter followed the unanimous passage of their resolution calling for the release of Kara-Murza after his unwarranted imprisonment and two poisonings by Russian agents. 

“Mr. Kara-Murza is a Russian patriot who has worked tirelessly for decades to advance the cause of freedom, democracy, and human rights for the Russian people. He, along with his murdered Russian opposition colleague Boris Nemtsov, was a key voice in advocating for the Sergei Magnitsky Act (P.L. 112-208), which provided for sanctions against Russian human rights violators. For his efforts and, most recently, peaceful opposition to the Russian war in Ukraine, Mr. Kara-Murza has faced multiple poisoning attempts. He is now detained in Russia, where he faces up to 15 years in jail. As such, we request the timely imposition of Magnitsky Act-related sanctions against all Russian officials responsible for his poisoning as well as his current arrest, jailing, and prosecution,” wrote the Senators

The Senators continued, condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criminalization of speaking out or making truthful statements about his barbaric war against Ukraine. Noting that Kara-Murza was jailed under these pretenses, the Senators urged Secretary Blinken to immediately use his authority under the Magnitsky Act to sanction Russians involved in Kara-Murza’s imprisonment. 

“On April 11, five police officers arrested Mr. Kara-Murza in front of his Moscow home and denied his right to an attorney, and the following day he was spuriously sentenced to 15 days in prison for disobeying a police order. On April 22, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation charged him with violating the prohibition on statements condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years of detention in a penitentiary system that human rights groups have criticized for widespread torture, ill-treatment, and suspicious or deliberate deaths of prisoners. Those Russian police, intelligence, security, court, and top-level government officials responsible for his absurd and cowardly detention also deserve immediate assessment for sanctioning under the Magnitsky Act for which Mr. Kara-Murza so bravely advocated,” the Senators wrote.  

The Senators concluded their letter to Secretary Blinken by sharing words of optimism from letters written to them by Kara-Murza as he awaits his trial in a Russian gulag. 

“And yet, amid his detention and separation from his family, he remained optimistic, noting ‘Despite everything, I know that one day Russia will be free.’ We applaud his love of country and hope for a better future for the Russian people. We urge the administration to make sure those cowards trying to quash his efforts are fully sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act,” the Senators ended their letter.  

In May, the Senate passed Shaheen, Durbin and Rubio’s bipartisan resolution honoring Kara-Murza. The resolution also pays tribute to his advocacy for human rights in Russia and support for the anti-war movement. Additionally, it urges the U.S. and its allies to secure his release and that of Alexei Navalny and other Russian political prisoners, and calls for the U.S. government to support the cause of democracy and human rights in Russia. In June, Shaheen and Durbin met with Evgenia Kara Murza, the wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza. Shaheen previously worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in May encouraging the Biden administration to sanction “every Russian official and associate involved with the arrest, detention and political persecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza.” 

Full text of the Senators’ letter is available here.  

Senator Shaheen, also a member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, has led efforts to hold Russia accountable for its aggression through her role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and specifically her leadership as chair of the SFRC Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation. She has long been an advocate for political prisoners unjustly detained, including calling for an international response to Russia’s mistreatment of Alexei Navalny. Shaheen was sanctioned by the Kremlin in 2017 for her outspoken criticism against Russia. 

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