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Who are the Russian dissidents still serving time after Alexei Navalny died behind bars?

Associated Press

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to secure his fifth term in power this month on the heels of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death in prison, which devastated Kremlin critics and spurred concerns about the safety of other imprisoned dissidents.

Putin has gone from tolerating dissent to suppressing anyone who dared challenge him during his 24-year rule. Over the past decade, his government has restricted freedom of speech and assembly, targeted people considered threats to the Kremlin, and restricted access to many independent news outlets.

Most opposition politicians are in prison or exile, and the 71-year-old Russian leader faces only token contenders.

Some of the prominent dissidents in prison today are:


A prominent opposition figure, Vladimir Kara-Murza was convicted of treason in April 2023 and handed the stiffest sentence for a Kremlin critic in modern Russia.

The charges against Kara-Murza, who has been behind bars since his arrest in 2022, stem from a speech that year to the House of Representatives in Arizona, where he denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 42-year-old political activist, who started out as a journalist, was an associate of Russian opposition leader and fierce Putin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

In 2011 and 2012, Kara-Murza and Nemtsov lobbied for passage of the Magnitsky Act in the United States. The law was in response to the death in prison of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had exposed a tax fraud scheme. The law has enabled Washington to impose sanctions on Russians deemed to be human rights violators.

Kara-Murza has twice survived poisonings he blamed on Russian authorities. He has rejected the charges against him as punishment for standing up to Putin, and likened the proceedings to the show trials under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Since September 2023, Kara-Murza has been serving his sentence in solitary confinement in the Siberian city of Omsk. In January, he was moved to another penal colony in the city and was put in solitary again. That move has been widely seen as an attempt to pressure a man who, even behind bars, remained a vocal critic of the Kremlin and its war in Ukraine.


One of the few well-known Kremlin critics to stay in Russia after the start of the war, Ilya Yashin, 40, was arrested in June 2022 while walking in a Moscow park. He was sentenced to 8 ½ years in prison after he was convicted for spreading false information about Russian soldiers.

The charge stemmed from a YouTube livestream in which he talked about civilians slain in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. After Russian forces withdrew from the area in March 2022, hundreds of corpses were found, some with their hands bound and shot at close range.

Yashin, member of a Moscow municipal council, was a vocal Navalny ally and a close associate of Nemtsov’s. He is serving time in Russia’s western Smolensk region.

His harsh sentence didn’t silence Yashin’s sharp criticism of the Kremlin. Yashin’s associates regularly update his social media pages with messages he relays from prison. His YouTube channel has over 1.5 million subscribers.

“So far the authorities have failed to shut me up,” he said in a letter from prison to The Associated Press in September 2022.


Andrei Pivovarov, 42, headed the opposition group Open Russia, which authorities declared an “undesirable” organization before it was disbanded in 2021. Days later, as he attempted to leave the country, Pivovarov was pulled off an airliner due to take off from St. Petersburg for Warsaw.

The authorities accused him of carrying out activities of an “undesirable organization.” He rejected the charges as politically motivated and driven by his plans to run for a seat in the parliament in the 2021 election. While in pretrial detention, he still managed to run a campaign, but didn’t get on the ballot. In July 2022, when the war in Ukraine was in full swing, Pivovarov was sentenced to four years in prison.

In a written interview conducted when he was behind bars in December 2022, Pivovarov told the AP that his sentence did not come as a surprise.

“By the summer of 2022, the political field was completely purged. Those who hadn’t left ended up behind bars just like me,” Pivovarov wrote.

He has been serving time in isolation in a remote penal colony in Russia’s northwestern Karelia region.


Lilia Chanysheva, the 42-year-old former head of Alexei Navalny’s office in the Russian Bashkortostan region, was arrested in November 2021. A court ruling several months earlier had designated Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and its regional offices as “extremist organizations.”

Following a closed-door trial, Chanysheva was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison in June 2023 after being found guilty of calling for extremism, forming an extremist group and founding an organization that violates rights. She was also fined 400,000 rubles (about $4,700).

Chanysheva rejects the charges as politically motivated. Russian media reported this week that the authorities are now seeking a harsher sentence of 10 years for the former activist.


Veteran human rights campaigner Oleg Orlov was convicted by a Moscow court for “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian military and sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison in February.

The 70-year-old co-chair for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights group Memorial was charged over an article he wrote denouncing Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In 1995, when Chechen rebels in the city of Budyonnovsk took thousands of people hostage in a hospital, Orlov was among the human rights activists who offered themselves as hostages in exchange for the release of civilians.

Orlov was convicted and sentenced to a fine of 150,000 rubles (about $1,500 at the time) in October 2023, significantly less than the lengthy prison terms some other Russians have received for criticizing the war. Underscoring Putin’s low tolerance of criticism of the invasion of Ukraine, the prosecution appealed the fine and sought harsher punishment.

In a statement, Memorial called Orlov’s sentence “an attempt to drown out the voice of the human rights movement in Russia and any criticism of the state.”


Alexei Gorinov, a member of a Moscow municipal council, was the first person to be sentenced to prison under the law penalizing the spread of “false information” about the Russian military after the invasion of Ukraine.

He was arrested in April 2022 after criticizing the war at a municipal council meeting. A YouTube video showed him voicing skepticism about holding a planned children’s art competition in his constituency while “everyday children are dying” in Ukraine. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The long sentence for a low-profile activist shocked many. In written comments to AP from behind bars in March 2023, Gorinov, 62, said “authorities needed an example they could showcase to others (of) an ordinary person, rather than a public figure.”

Gorinov has a chronic respiratory condition and had part of a lung removed before he was imprisoned. His health deteriorated during six weeks in solitary confinement in a penal colony in the Vladimir region east of Moscow. He is still recovering.

Article Topic Follows: AP-National

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