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Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian Freedom Fighter, speaks at UNF for Russian democracy

Kristina Smith

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In the latest installment of the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville, UNF hosted Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza. Kara-Murza is a modern day freedom fighter that constantly risks his life as a champion for a Russian democracy.

Kara-Murza was an advisor to the assassinated opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, been poisoned twice, and was a fervent advocate for the passage of the Magnitsky Act.

As Russia is riddled with corruption, deception, and the constant danger of retaliation, anyone would wonder why Kara-Murza would bear the risk to dissent. But for Kara-Murza, the dream of democracy was rooted in his childhood.

“I think I was part of that generation where my first, conscious political memory was of the democratic revolution in Russia.”

That 1991 revolution resulted in the fall of the Soviet Union, giving Russian citizens hope for a future where their opinions mattered. But today that hope is concealed behind a facade, and the face of that facade is President Vladimir Putin.

Kara-Murza believes the Russian population is languishing under Russia’s present government, where an entire generation has grown up with one leader. As that generation comes to adulthood, they’re raised in an environment where independent media is stifled, a Prime Minister flits between his vineyards and yachts, and opposition is often violently punished.

Despite the risks, youths all over Russia often protest, and Kara-Murza said that it’s not always about optimism. Quoting a French saying, he said that protesting meant to “Do what you must, and come what may.”

He stated that protesters in Russia felt that doing nothing would make them feel implicit in the crimes committed by their country.

And that’s where the 2012 Magnitsky Act comes in. Kara-Murza invoked the namesake of the act, Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky was a former Russian lawyer who was imprisoned, beaten, and ultimately died after he revealed that the Russian government was embezzling millions.

When the Magnitsky Act was enacted, it was a call for accountability and it was first used to place sanctions on Russian human rights abusers. Today it’s expanded to the level of the Global Magnitsky Act, so that the United States President can place sanctions on human rights abusers worldwide.

Kara-Murza believes that the Magnitsky Act is Putin’s greatest fear and hate. The dissident believes that the Magnitsky Act is a threat to Russian influence in the west. Kara-Murza has no qualms about the Magnitsky Act diminishing Putin’s influence, and he thinks that it will be beneficial on the world stage.

“When there is a government in Russia that is democratically elected and respects the rights and the freedoms and the dignity of its own people, it will also play a responsible role on the world stage,” Kara-Murza said.

Kara-Murza still believes in his nation where elections count for nothing and the power of the government is absolute. And he speaks for the silenced voices of the people.

“However strong or however seemlingly strong a dictatorial regime is, when enough people in society are willing to stand up, nothing can overcome that opposition.”

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Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian Freedom Fighter, speaks at UNF for Russian democracy