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 for treason.
A Moscow court jailed Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza – who holds Russia and British passports – for 25 years after convicting him of treason on Monday in a trial he and the West said was politically motivated. It was the harshest sentence of its kind since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Kara-Murza, 41, successfully lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for purported human rights violations. He also condemned what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Russia’s 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 and demand Kara-Murza’s release.
British ambassador Deborah Bronnert delivered her remarks in Russian so that Russian-language TV channels could potentially broadcast them.
In a statement issued 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.
Referencing what she said were human rights violations in the three Western countries, Zakharova said it was cynical for them to demand the release of someone she called “an agent of influence” financed by the West.
“Attempts to pressure Russia’s government and its independent judiciary are bound to fail. Traitors… who are applauded in the West will get what they deserve,” she said.
Britain – which in 2020 imposed sanctions on the judge who presided over Kara-Murza’s case for alleged rights violations – on Monday summoned the Russian ambassador to protest.
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.