Evgenia Kara-Murza expressed grave worry Wednesday about her husband Vladimir Kara-Murza’s declining health in prison, praising his bravery in the face of Moscow’s “cynical retribution” for his opposition to the Kremlin.

“I am obviously concerned,” Evgenia Kara-Murza said in an interview with AFP. “His health indeed is failing.”

Even before he was arrested last year, her husband had severe health problems, caused by a nerve disorder called polyneuropathy that she blamed on two poisonings in 2015 and 2017.

His health has worsened considerably during the last year in pre-trial custody, she said, and warned that the situation would surely deteriorate further with the harsh sentence that was handed down.

Kara-Murza, 41, received a 25-year sentence in a maximum security prison last month for treason and other offences for denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He has challenged the sentence – the longest for a Russian dissident in recent times – but his wife said she anticipated it would be “of course” dismissed.

She noted that Russian law forbade imprisoning people with polyneuropathy, which can result in paralysis, but that the “Russian authorities did not care about this”

Evgenia Kara-Murza expressed outrage at her husband’s sentence in an interview with AFP at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

She said it was “pure and cynical retribution by the Russian government”, noting that the judge and the prison chief who held her husband were targeted by sanctions that he had urged the US and Europe to apply.

He helped pass the Magnitsky Act, a US law aimed at punishing Russian officials involved in the death of Russian tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail in 2009.

She said the regime clearly regarded her husband as a personal foe.

“Our kids nearly lost their father twice in the past,” she said, adding that he was poisoned in attempts “not to warn, but to kill”.

She said her husband had bravely returned to Russia despite the risks and that she backed his choice.

“I’m terrified for his life,” she said, tears welling in her dark eyes, adding that “Vladimir and I have been lovingly creating our little world for years: our family, our children.”

“But I understand what he’s fighting for,” she said, saying that he had stayed “true to himself” despite “all the dangers, all the assaults”.

“It would be very dishonest of me to ask him to change now after accepting him as he is over 20 years ago. That wouldn’t be Vladimir.

“My only option is to support him and fight with him and for him.”

She admitted that the situation was “extremely hard” for their three children, but said Kara-Murza “somehow manages to keep being a good dad to them even from prison.”

“He’s showing them a very important lesson: that they should confront bullies with bravery, that they should never quit without a struggle, that they should embrace the risks… recognize them, and still fight in spite of those risks.”

When asked if she believed others would have the courage to follow his lead, she referred to the “20,000 people unjustly imprisoned” since Russia began its full-blown attack on Ukraine in February 2022.

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