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Russian dissidents

Is the Kremlin poisoning Navalny?

Navalny: struck by a “mysterious ailment”. Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty

This week the Kremlin jailed one of Vladimir Putin’s “bravest critics”, says Giles Whittell in Tortoise. Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Cambridge-educated historian who holds British and Russian citizenship, has devoted much of his life to opposition politics. He “infuriated” Putin by helping secure US congressional support for the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian human rights abusers. He also drew attention to the Russian leader’s “habit of assassinating political enemies”, and condemned Moscow for dropping cluster bombs on schools in Ukraine. For his troubles, he has survived two attempted poisonings – the second of which put him in a coma – and has now been jailed for 25 years. Asked to express remorse, he said he stood by “every word” he had said. “Not only do I not repent any of this, I am proud of it.”

The Ukraine war has emboldened Putin to treat dissidents even more atrociously than he already did, says The Times. Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader serving a bogus 11-year sentence for fraud, has recently been struck by a “mysterious ailment” leading to dramatic weight loss and “acute stomach pains”. His supporters say he is being denied access to medical care. The Kremlin’s goons have already tried to poison Navalny once, with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, so it seems “disturbingly plausible” that they’re trying to finish the job. Western governments are reluctant to highlight his plight, to avoid entrenching divisions with Moscow. But they shouldn’t be – this is a “prisoner of conscience being targeted by a rogue regime”. Time to speak out.