Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza awaits a court hearing in Moscow
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1206 GMT:
Referring to Russia as “RF”, Ukraine Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has commented on a purported American document in which US officials assessed difficulties for a Ukrainian counter-offensive this spring (0727 GMT).
If we had time, we could watch the RF [Russia] fall apart & its "elites" devour each other. But we don't have it, as our people are dying. We need less contemplation on "leaks" and more long-range weapons in order to properly end the war and make the RF face the reality…
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) April 11, 2023
UPDATE 0727 GMT:
In early February 2023, US officials questioned if a Ukrainian counter-offensive could succeed this spring, according to a purported top-secret American document.
The officials cited challenges over troops, ammunition and equipment, causing Kyiv to fall “well short” of its goals for liberation and to make only “modest territorial gains”.
The assessment is among scores of documents, ostensibly US Government classified material, placed on online messaging platforms from early March. Mainstream media began reporting on the documents last week.
US officials purportedly said that their assessment complemented that of the National Intelligence Council.
Since the document was drafted in early February, senior US officials held talks with Ukrainian counterparts about matching ambitions to capabilities. A mid-March call included Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
US officials and Ukrainian military commanders also held tabletop exercies playing out different offensive scenarios. They examinined the consequences of spreading forces too thin and stretching supply lines too far.
American sources said the conversations produced “a sense that Ukraine was beginning to understand the limitations of what it could achieve in the offensive and preparing accordingly”. While cutting off Crimea is unlikely to happen, incremental gains could hinder the free flow of Russian equipment and personnel between eastern and southern Ukraine.
One senior Ukrainian official said the depiction is “partially true…but the most critical part is a delay of the already promised systems, which delays training of newly formed brigades and the counteroffensive as a whole”.
Since the assessment was produced, an international coalition has committed advanced armored vehicles to Kyiv, although German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks have only just begun to be delivered. The first Soviet-made Mig-29 fighter jets, from Poland, have also been supplied.
Another senior Ukrainian official said the leaked documents are unlikely to affect a forthcoming counteroffensive.
Everyone knows we’re low on ammunition — the President and the Defense Minister talk about that openly.
And it’s been obvious to everyone since November that the next counteroffensive will be focused on the south, first Melitopol and then Berdyansk. But the exact place — we can change that the week before.
Another leaked top-secret document, dated February 17, portrays Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi of Egypt and senior Egyptian military officials discussion plans to supply Russia with artillery rounds and gunpowder. Sisi instructed officials to keep the production and shipment of the rockets secret “to avoid problems with the west”.
A US official said, “We are not aware of any execution of that plan. We have not seen that happen.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Prominent Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, facing a 25-year sentence on a treason charge, has compared his case to the show trials in the Soviet Union of the Stalin era.
A close associate of assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Kara-Murza, 41, was detained in April 2022 on charges of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army after he criticized Vladimir Putin’s invasion. The charges of high treason and affiliation with an “undesirable” organization with later added.
The trial is being held behind closed doors in a Moscow court, with sentencing scheduled for April 17. Kara-Murza’s wife and lawyer released his closing statement on Monday.
“A Day When This Darkness Clears Away In Our Country”
In the statement, Kara-Murza addresses the court:
It was surprising to me that my trial which took place in 2023 left the trials over Soviet dissidents in the 1960s-1970s far behind in terms of how closed and discriminating towards the defense it was, let alone the requested prison term and words used such as “the enemy”: things like this were present in the 1930s, but not 1970s.
The dissident does not challenge the imminent sentence:
There is nothing I ask from this court. I know what my verdict will be. I knew it a year ago when I saw people wearing black uniforms and black masks chasing my car. This is the price you pay in today’s Russia for not remaining silent….
I am in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For a years-long fight against Putin’s dictatorship. For contributing to personal international sanctions against violators of human rights, via the Magnitsky Act.
Not only do I not repent any of these deeds, but I am also proud.
Despite the prospect of 25 years behind bars, he concludes with hope:
I know that there will be a day when this darkness clears away in our country. When the color black will be called black, and the color white will be called white. When the officials finally admit that 2 multiplied by 2 is 4, when the war is called war, the usurper is called usurper, and when people who started and waged this war are proclaimed criminals instead of those who tried to stop it. This day is inevitable, same as when there is spring even after the coldest of winters.
And on that day our society will open its eyes and will be terrified when it realizes what horrible crimes were committed on its behalf.
This realization will pave a long and difficult, yet a very important way for Russia towards restoration and recovery as it would be returning to the society of civilized countries.
“Stop Russia’s New Slide Toward Stalinism”
Earlier Monday, 77 Russian journalists and rights activists wrote on behalf of Kara-Murza, a “true Russian patriot”.
They noted that “his betrayal was, as the prosecutor insists, speaking at international forums condemning the war and the persecution of dissidents in Putin’s Russia”.
Demanding that Russian authorities “get back on the track of justice”, they echo Kara-Murza’s invocation of the 1930s:
We find it evident that these completely unfounded accusations and the requested sentence is proof that today’s Russia is returning to the practices of Stalin’s political terror. Terror against dissent and its own people cost Russia hundreds of thousands of lives in the last century. This terror began with show trials of political opponents and dissidents, and ended with mass executions and imprisonment of ordinary citizens.
They conclude, “Prosecute murderers and criminals rather than honest and responsible citizens who dare to think and speak the truth. Stop Russia’s new slide toward Stalinism and a totalitarian system.