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Opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza and other dissidents detained in Russia

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You won't see it in the Russian news, but there is unrest in Russia over that country's invasion of Ukraine. Over 15,000 people have been detained since the start of the war - some just for holding up a blank piece of paper or waving a copy of Tolstoy's "War And Peace." Among those detained is Vladimir Kara-Murza. He's a prominent opposition politician and activist. He was arrested on April 11, a day after he called Vladimir Putin's government a regime of murderers. We're joined now by Evgenia Kara-Murza. She's a project manager of the Free Russia Foundation, and she joins us now from metropolitan Washington, D.C. Thanks so much for being with us.

EVGENIA KARA-MURZA: Thank you very much for having me here today.

SIMON: May we ask if you've heard from your husband one way or another?

KARA-MURZA: My only contact with Vladimir is through his lawyer in Moscow. I do not have any direct contact with Vladimir. I have not had any direct contact with him for almost two months.

SIMON: Hmm. Do you know - it's a ridiculous question in some ways. But you know how he's doing in a Russian prison?

KARA-MURZA: He's doing as well as you can do in a Russian prison notorious for torture, humiliation and all kinds of mistreatment of inmates. Yesterday, Moscow's Basmanny court extended Vladimir's pretrial detention until August the 12th, which did not come as a surprise, of course. But it does not make the entire case against my husband less odious.

You mentioned those 15,000 people who have already been detained since the beginning of the war, and that number is growing daily. The Russian Duma adopted a law criminalizing any form of dissent, punishable by up to 15 years in prison for disseminating - as the government calls it - knowingly false information about the use of Russian armed forces. So this is what we're dealing with in Russia nowadays. This is the reality of today's Russia.

SIMON: Your husband, I gather, suspects he's been poisoned at least twice. And obviously, that has happened with other dissidents. Yet he returned to Russia after the start of the Russian invasion. May I ask, did you have a family discussion about why he would do that?

KARA-MURZA: Vladimir has always identified himself as a Russian politician. He is a patriot. He's a true Russian patriot. In my husband's view, he would not have the moral right to call on Russians to continue opposing the regime, standing up to Putin, if he himself were somewhere safe, if he himself were not sharing the same risks and the same challenges faced by Russians back home. This is my husband, the man I admire for his position and his principled stand, and I will always support him 100%.

SIMON: I have to ask, is it realistic to think that the Putin regime will be ousted or will disappear or will be voted out of office?

KARA-MURZA: Every dictator in the history of the human race believed himself to be invincible. And every dictator eventually fell. And I believe that with this unprovoked and bloody war in Ukraine, Mr. Putin signed his - what is the expression? - death warrant. And we do believe that Putin cannot be allowed to win this war.

SIMON: Mmm-hmm.

KARA-MURZA: He cannot be allowed to represent anything as a victory in this war because as it happened before, had he been punished for his previous military interventions, I believe this war would not have happened.

SIMON: Ms. Kara-Murza, I think I have to ask this weekend, what do you say to those Americans who might feel very deeply for the way you and your husband have suffered and the price you've paid for your beliefs, but they just don't want to get involved? Inflation is at a high now in part because of the cost of Russian oil. And they say, look, it's terrible, but that's Russia's business, not of ours.

KARA-MURZA: This is not only Russia's business because internal aggression always leads to external aggression, as it happened with the regime of Vladimir Putin. And so I believe that silence is complicity, and I believe that we cannot be silent in the face of something as monstrous as the regime of Vladimir Putin.

SIMON: That's Evgenia Kara-Murza. She's a project manager of the Free Russia Foundation, and she is married to Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is in a Russian jail as we speak. Thank you so much for being with us.

KARA-MURZA: Thank you very much for having me here today.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIRTWIRE FEAT. JED AND LUCIA'S "STILL THERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.