Russia summons Western diplomats over ‘meddling’ in dissident’s case
Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza, accused of treason and of discrediting the Russian army, stands inside an enclosure for defendants during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, April 17, 2023. Moscow City Court/Handout via REUTERS
By Andrew Osborn
MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S., British and Canadian ambassadors for a dressing down on Tuesday after they condemned the conviction of an opposition politician on treason charges.
A Moscow court jailed Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza – who holds Russian and British passports – for 25 years on Monday after a trial he and the West said was politically motivated. It was the harshest sentence of its kind since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Kara-Murza, 41, had lobbied Western governments for sanctions that were later imposed on Russia and individual Russians for purported human rights violations, and condemned what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the three ambassadors of “crude interference in Russia’s internal affairs and activity incompatible with their diplomatic status”, Interfax news agency reported.
There was no immediate comment from the three embassies.
The U.S., British and Canadian ambassadors had made a joint appearance in front of TV cameras on the steps of the Moscow court on Monday to condemn the verdict against Kara-Murza and demand his release.
British Ambassador Deborah Bronnert delivered her remarks in Russian so that Russian-language TV channels could potentially broadcast them.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the foreign ministry called Bronnert’s remarks “inappropriate” and “provocative” and said they ran counter to the British embassy’s status and to diplomatic norms.
The ministry said the fact that Kara-Murza had a British passport in addition to his Russian one meant nothing in the eyes of Russian law.
Late on Monday, before the envoys were summoned, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused them of trying to pressure the judiciary and said diplomats who meddled in Russia’s affairs risked being expelled.
“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.
Zakharova said that people she referred to as “traitors… who are applauded in the West” will get what they deserve.
Britain on Monday summoned the Russian ambassador to protest against the verdict.
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 said Kara-Murza deserved to be jailed for helping the West craft sanctions against Russia.