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General News

OXI Courage Award Recipient Arrested in Russia

WASHINGTON, DC – On April 11, OXI Courage Award recipient Vladimir Kara-Murza was arrested by Russian police in Moscow. The Washington OXI Day Foundation in a statement via email on April 12 expressed great concern and called for his immediate release.

Kara-Murza has survived two attempts on his life by Russian forces, and both times his wife was told he would not survive. Yet he returns to Moscow to fight for freedom. When he received the 2018 Courage Award, Foundation Advisory Board Member Michael Psaros introduced Kara-Murza as “a man who is changing the world.” In his acceptance speech, Kara-Murza said: “Moral courage can be stronger than military might as the people of Greece showed in October of 1940 when the Axis ultimatum was answered with one short word: ‘OXI!’ There is nothing despotic regimes hate more than hearing this word.”

“The award I have the great honor of receiving tonight is presented for courage,” Kara-Murza continued. “I don’t know if we are courageous… but what we certainly are is unwilling to be complicit in the crimes of a regime that claims to speak on behalf of our country. We say NO to its cruelty, to its corruption, to its constant lying. And we look forward to one day saying YES to a Russia that respects the rights and freedoms of its citizens and that plays a constructive role in international affairs. We know that day will come. And we will continue to do everything we can to bring that day a little closer.”

Vladimir Kara-Murza and his wife, Evgenia, at the Washington OXI Day Foundation gala in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of the Washington OXI Day Foundation

The day before his arrest, Kara-Murza appeared on MSNBC from Moscow and displayed his #OXIcourage by forcefully speaking out against Vladimir Putin’s repression in Russia and invasion of Ukraine. As the Greeks said “OXI!” to the Nazis, Kara-Murza said “NO!” to Putin. He said: “Thousands of people are coming out across Russia to say ‘NO!’ this is not my war, this is Putin’s war, this is not a war conducted by the Russian people. We all know the dangers, the price of being in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s regime… More than 15,000 people were detained by police since February 24 for demonstrating against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I have been twice poisoned [in 2015 and 2017] by operatives of the FSB (the Russian federal security service)… friend and colleague Boris Nemtsov, was murdered, gunned down. There is no doubt that Vladimir Putin ordered that assassination. This is the price of freedom in Russia… But we also know there are millions of people in Russia who categorically oppose Putin’s regime and everything it’s doing, both in terms of internal repression and external aggression. Russia is my country. Russia is my home and this is where I have to be.”

Michael Psaros presented the OXI Courage Award to Vladimir Kara-Murza in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of the Washington OXI Day Foundation

The day of his arrest CNN aired an interview in which Kara-Murza said: “This regime that is in power in our country today is not just corrupt, it is not just kleptocratic, it is not just authoritarian, it is a regime of murderers.”

Kara-Murza’s wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza, confirmed his arrest in a tweet late Monday, April 11, saying: “Twice have the Russian authorities tried to kill my husband for advocating for sanctions against thieves and murderers, and now they want to throw him in prison for calling their bloody war a WAR. I demand my husband’s immediate release!”

Less than two weeks prior to his arrest, Kara-Murza testified before the Helsinki Commission at a March 29 hearing examining Putin’s war on truth, where witnesses discussed the Kremlin’s use of propaganda and censorship. Kara-Murza said, “those who speak out against this war are now liable for criminal prosecution.” He continued, that following the invasion, Putin moved swiftly against “what remained of independent media in Russia.”

The Russian government in March enacted new restrictions, criminalizing media from using the word “invasion” to describe the conflict in Ukraine. Those who violate them could face up to 15 years in prison.

Mike Psaros presented the Oxi Courage Αward to Vladimir Kara-Murza. Photo by Paul Morse/OXI DAY Foundation.
Mike Psaros presented the Oxi Courage award to Vladimir Kara-Murza

Yesterday, the Helsinki Commission released a statement expressing alarm at Kara-Murza’s arrest and said: “[Kara-Murza] is not a criminal but a true patriot motivated by the potential of a democratic future for Russia and freedom for its people. He must be allowed access to his lawyer and should be released immediately.”

According to the Helsinki Commission, “On April 11, Vladimir Kara-Murza was detained on the street near his Moscow home. He currently is being held in the Khamovniki police station in the Central Administrative District of Moscow, where authorities have denied him access to his legal counsel in violation of his constitutional rights. Reports indicate that he has been charged with an administrative offense. It remains unclear if he is undergoing interrogation while in custody. His trial is scheduled for April 12.”

“Just as Vladimir Kara-Murza paid respect and homage to the Greek people’s incredible courage at that pivotal moment in WWII history, we must pay respect and homage to his incredible courage at this pivotal moment in modern history,” said Washington Oxi Day Foundation President and Founder Andy Manatos.

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