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Jailed Kremlin critic wins Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

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Prague, Czech Republic – Imprisoned Russian opposition figure and vocal Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza won the 2022 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

Awarded every year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Václav Havel Library and the Charter 77 Foundation, the prestigious award honours civil society figures for their fight for the protection of democracy and fundamental human rights.

The €60,000-prize was presented on Monday in Strasbourg during the opening day of the PACE’s autumn plenary session. The prize was accepted on his behalf by his wife, Evgenia, who read a statement from her husband dedicating the prize to the Russians and political prisoners who had publicly opposed the war in Ukraine.

“I could not be prouder of my partner, my best friend, the father of my children,” she said.

“Despite the risks, Vladimir Kara-Murza had the courage to return to his country to continue his fight, even while having the possibility to stay safe,” said PACE president Tiny Kox. “It takes incredible courage in today’s Russia to stand against the power in place. Today, Mr Kara-Murza is showing this courage, from his prison cell.”

A long-time opposition politician, activist and historian, Vladimir Kara-Murza co-founded the Russian Anti-War Committee against the invasion of Ukraine and has allegedly been the target of at least two poisoning attempts in 2015 and 2017. A former student of the University of Cambridge, he holds Russian and British citizenship, and was one of the few high-profile opposition figures who decided to stay in Russia at the time of his arrest.

He was jailed last April on charges of treason and discrediting the Russian army and could face 20 years in prison if found guilty under newly introduced legislation.

“Our client has been charged after speaking out critically against the Russian authorities three times, at public events in Lisbon, Helsinki and Washington,” his lawyer Vadim Prokhorov was quoted as saying. “These speeches did not pose any threat; it was public, open criticism.”

Just a few days ago, Russian human rights organisation Memorial was a laureate of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, along with two other co-winners from neighbouring Belarus and Ukraine.

The two other nominees shortlisted for this year’s Václav Havel Human Rights award were the Rainbow Coalition, a Hungarian-based LGBT rights advocacy group, and Ukraine’s 5 AM Coalition for their work in documenting and uncovering war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Since its creation ten years ago, the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize has been awarded to Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava (2021), Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain Alhathloul (2020), jointly to Ilham Tohti and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (2019), Oyub Titiev (2018), Murat Arslan (2017), Nadia Murad (2016), Ludmilla Alexeeva (2015), Anar Mammadli (2014) and Ales Bialiatski (2013).

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