| 8 December 2023, Friday |

Russia warns Western diplomats of expulsion risk after ‘meddling’ in dissident’s case

Russia has accused Britain’s, the United States’, and Canada’s ambassadors of interfering in its internal affairs after they condemned the treason conviction of a prominent opposition politician, and it has warned them that they face expulsion in the future.

On Monday, a Moscow court sentenced Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza, who holds Russian and British passports, to 25 years in prison for treason in a politically motivated trial, according to him and the West. It was the harshest sentence of its kind since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Kara-Murza, 41, for years successfully lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for purported human rights violations.

He also condemned what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The ambassadors of Britain, the United States and Canada made a joint appearance in front of TV cameras on the steps of the Moscow court after his verdict to condemn the ruling and demand his release.

British ambassador Deborah Bronnert delivered her remarks in Russian so that Russian-language TV channels could potentially broadcast them.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the diplomats’ behaviour was unacceptable.

“It’s direct interference in Russia’s internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, calling the move an attempt to put pressure on the Russian judiciary.

Referencing what she said were human rights violations in the three relevant Western countries, Zakharova said it was cynical for the same nations to now demand the release of someone she called “an agent of influence” financed by the West.

“Attempts to pressure Russia’s government and its independent judiciary are bound to fail. Traitors… who are applauded in the West will get what they deserve,” Zakharova said.

Britain – which in 2020 imposed sanctions on the judge who presided over Kara-Murza’s case for alleged human rights violations – on Monday summoned the Russian ambassador to protest.

Kara-Murza himself compared his trial, which was held behind closed doors, to one of Josef Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s.

Pro-Kremlin politicians and commentators described him as a long-standing “accomplice” of Washington who had helped the West craft effective sanctions against Russia, treasonous behaviour for which they said he deserved to be jailed.

Zakharova told Western diplomats to stay out of Russia’s domestic affairs or risk being sent home.

“Any actions of the United States, Britain and Canada… aimed at inciting discord and enmity in our society will be dealt with in the most decisive way and the diplomats involved in this subversive work will be expelled from Russia,” she said.

  • Reuters