Hit squad is 'physically eliminating' Putin's critics, jailed opponent warns

By Isaac M February 23, 2024

A prominent Russian opposition figure has claimed a state-backed hit squad is “physically eliminating” opponents of Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Kara-Murza is urging Russians not to give up following the sudden death of Alexei Navalny.

He is a British-Russian citizen who is serving a 25-year sentence for treason, and claims there have been two poisoning attempts against him.

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The 42-year-old was found guilty of criticising Russia’s war in Ukraine, and was handed the lengthy jail term as part of a crackdown against freedom of speech.

Now behind bars in Siberia, he appeared in court via videolink on Thursday.

In footage shared on social media, he said: “We owe it… to our fallen comrades to continue to work with even greater strength and achieve what they lived and died for.”

After the first alleged poisoning attempt, he nearly died of kidney failure – and was hospitalised and placed in a medically induced coma after a similar illness two years later.

According to his wife, doctors confirmed he had been poisoned.

Who is Vladimir Kara-Murza?

Vladimir Kara-Murza is a British-Russian dual national serving a 25-year sentence for treason, which is the longest sentence handed down to any Kremlin opponent since Soviet times, partly because of his tireless work to try and tighten the sanctions regime against Russia.

Now that Navalny is dead, he is one of Russia’s most prominent political prisoners though by no means the only one – with 1,100 at last count, according to the OVD human rights group.

Like Navalny, Kara-Murza was poisoned – twice – in 2015 and 2017. We’re here to attend a court hearing which he has brought against Russia’s investigative committee for failing to properly investigate the circumstances around those poisonings.

It’s not the first procedure, but in all the hearings so far, the investigative committee has failed to provide documents and representatives – a classic case of official obfuscation. But even from his Omsk jail cell, Kara-Murza is not letting it go.

Don’t expect this to go well for him, but it does at least keep his case in the spotlight, especially at a time when his health is poor in any case because of the prison conditions in which he is kept and the after effects of the poisoning.

He has claimed there is a “death squad within the Federal Security Service, a group of professional killers in the service of the state whose task is to physically eliminate political opponents of the Putin regime”.

He also said investigative journalists had proof FSB officers participated in his poisoning, attacked Mr Navalny with a nerve agent in 2020, and had surveilled opposition politician Boris Nemtsov before he was killed in 2015.

Another jailed opposition figure – Ilya Yashin – has also alleged Vladimir Putin was responsible for Mr Navalny’s death.

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What happened to Alexei Navalny?

In a post on social media that was shared on his behalf, he said: “I have no doubt that it was Putin. He’s a war criminal.

“Navalny was his key opponent in Russia and was hated by the Kremlin. Putin had both motive and opportunity. I am convinced that he ordered the killing.”

Mr Yashin went on to add that he feels “a black emptiness inside” – and vowed to speak out even though he believes he is in danger.

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Navalny’s mother appeals to Putin

The Kremlin has previously denied any involvement in the illnesses and deaths of opposition figures including Mr Navalny.

Russian authorities have said Mr Navalny’s cause of death remains unknown, and are refusing to release his body for two weeks while a preliminary inquest continues.

His family have accused the government of stalling to try and hide evidence.


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