Jennifer Wexton

04/04/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/04/2024 09:05

Kaine and Wexton Lead Call for Release of Vladimir Kara-Murza, Virginian Man Wrongfully Detained by Russian Authorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10), alongside U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA-8), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA-11), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7), wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, strongly urging the immediate designation of Vladimir Kara-Murza as a wrongfully detained U.S. national under U.S. federal law, and to directly engage with the Russian government to secure his release.

Kara-Murza, a journalist, pro-democracy advocate and permanent resident of Virginia, demonstrated exceptional courage in returning to Russia, where he was wrongfully arrested in Moscow in April 2022 shortly after criticizing Russia's invasion of Ukraine in a CNN interview. He was charged with treason, spreading false information about the military, and working with an "undesirable" civil society organization. All charges are erroneous and act only to censor free speech and criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his tyrannical rule. Kara-Murza has been in the Russian penal system since his arrest and disappeared from prison in January 2024.

"[Kara-Murza] has dedicated his life to fulfilling the ideals reflected in Virginia's motto - Sic Semper Tyrannis. The phony charges brought against him speak to the very nature of his wrongful detention," wrote the lawmakers. "…It is essential that the United States use every tool at its disposal to advocate for his release."

"The Administration's efforts to-date to hold Putin accountable for his criminal behavior are highly commendable, and we applaud the Administration's February 2024 announcement of more than 500 new sanctions on Russia after Navalny's death," they continued. "The United States should continue to pressure Putin and his regime to stop persecuting dissidents and to adhere to basic principles of human decency, as expected of any nation in the world. The United States must remain a beacon of hope for all individuals, regardless of the country they live in, who are systematically oppressed by their governments."

In wake of the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in prison on February 16, 2024, and amidst serious concerns that Kara-Murza will be the Kremlin's next target, there is increased urgency in releasing Kara-Murza. The letter encourages the United States to ensure Kara-Murza's safe return to his wife, children and home.

Senator Kaine and Congresswoman Wexton have consistently advocated for Kara-Murza and wrote to President Joe Biden in October, urging the designation of Vladimir Kara-Murza as an "unlawfully or wrongfully detained" U.S. national under U.S. federal law. Senator Kaine also cosigned a resolution condemning Russia's unjust and arbitrary detention of Kara-Murza.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We write to once again press the Department of State to urgently designate Vladimir Kara-Murza as a wrongfully detained individual under the Levinson Act and Executive Order 14078, and immediately engage with the Russian government to secure his release. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison on February 16, 2024; Kara-Murza has been in the Russian penal system since April 2022 and was transferred to a prison colony in Omsk, Russia six months ago. A journalist and a pro-democracy advocate who made Virginia his adopted home, he demonstrated astounding courage in choosing to return to Russia to stand against Vladimir Putin's despotism. We are deeply concerned with the possibility that Kara-Murza will be the Kremlin's next target.

Kara-Murza is a constituent of our Commonwealth and a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident. He has dedicated his life to fulfilling the ideals reflected in Virginia's motto - Sic Semper Tyrannis. The phony charges brought against him speak to the very nature of his wrongful detention and underscore why the Levinson Act is directly applicable to his case. Wrongful detention determinations, as defined by the Act, cover U.S. nationals, including Lawful Permanent Residents, arrested or detained overseas as a result of processes led by official law enforcement and their judicial branches. The determination must encompass the totality of the circumstances leading up to the arrest or detention - including the fairness of the judicial process, the veracity of the charges, and motivation for imprisonment. Kara-Murza's incarceration indisputably meets these criteria. It is essential that the United State use every tool at its disposal to advocate for his release.

Navalny's death is a sobering reminder that Putin will do anything to hold onto power and suppress those who speak out against him. As we mourn Navalny's sacrifice, we must redouble our efforts to advocate on behalf of democratic actors in Russia. We must do more to stand with Russian activists who yearn for freedom and democracy.

The Administration's efforts to-date to hold Putin accountable for his criminal behavior are highly commendable, and we applaud the Administration's February 2024 announcement of more than 500 new sanctions on Russia after Navalny's death. The United States should continue to pressure Putin and his regime to stop persecuting dissidents and to adhere to basic principles of human decency, as expected of any nation in the world. The United States must remain a beacon of hope for all individuals, regardless of the country they live in, who are systematically oppressed by their governments. For Kara-Murza, that demands fulfilling the tenets of the Levinson Act by supporting this designation, and ensuring that our constituent returns safely to his home in Virginia and is finally reunited with his wife and children.

Sincerely,

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