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Jailed Russian opposition figure Kara-Murza faces 'psychological torture', wife says

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

GENEVA (Reuters) - Evgenia Kara-Murza, wife of jailed Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza, said authorities were torturing him psychologically by denying him calls with his children while he serves a 25-year sentence on charges he says are politically motivated.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Evgenia Kara-Murza said her husband's repeated requests to speak to his three children - aged 11, 14 and 17 - were denied given that they now live in the United States.

"Vladimir very much misses his kids, his family, and he's devastated that he has not been able to talk to us in over a year," Evgenia Kara-Murza said on Wednesday. "And the authorities know that. They're just using it as a psychological torture against him."

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Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Convicted last month of treason and other offences for publicly condemning Russia's leadership and the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Kara-Murza received the harshest sentence of its kind since the February 2022 invasion.

He was detained in April last year, hours after CNN broadcast an interview in which he said Russia was being run by a "regime of murderers".

State prosecutors accused the 41-year-old of treason, among other offences, and of discrediting the Russian military by spreading "knowingly false information" about its conduct in what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, who holds Russian and British passports, was a close associate of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition figure assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015. He continued to speak out against President Vladimir Putin.

"Had I tried to convince him to give up his fight, I would have betrayed him," Evgenia Kara-Murza said.

'PERSONAL ENEMY'

Evgenia Kara-Murza said her husband's successful lobbying of foreign governments and institutions to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for human rights violations had made him a "personal enemy" of the Kremlin.

"Dictatorships all over the world are very much afraid of clear, strong voices that refuse to be intimidated. And Vladimir's voice is one such voice."

Despite not being able to speak to him, his children have grown up being acutely aware of the perils of being an opposition figure in Russia.

They witnessed their father slip into comas after poisonings in 2015 and 2017 that left him with a serious nerve disorder called polyneuropathy. Russian authorities denied any involvement.

"Their father was first poisoned when our oldest was nine," Evgenia Kara-Murza said. "She's now 17. That's half of her life she spent knowing that her father was being targeted again and again and again."

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Alex Richardson)