Russia Update: Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. Gives First Interview Since Hospitalization

August 19, 2015
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. (R) in Kazan with Prof. Andrei Zubov, whose lecture Kara-Murza had arranged as the first in a series by Open Russia, the civic movement where he serves as federal coordinator. This is the most recent picture taken of him, on May 23, 2015. Via Facebook

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., coordinator for Open Russia, has given his first press interview today to Moskovsky Komsomolets.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Special features:

‘I Was on Active Duty’: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov
Meet The Russian Fighters Building A Base Between Mariupol And Donetsk
‘There Was No Buk in Our Field’
With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin


Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. Gives First Interview Since His Hospitalization

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., coordinator for Open Russia, has given his first press interview today to Moskovsky Komsomolets.

Kara-Murza, Jr. was hospitalized suddenly May 27 with suspected poisoning after he had made a trip to Kazan to open a lecture series sponsored by Open Russia, the movement for democratic reform in Russia founded by businessman and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Doctors discounted that he took an overdose of drugs, as claimed by pro-government tabloid TV LifeNews, as a blood analysis ruled out any known toxins. Kara-Murza, Jr. was in a medically-induced coma as he suffered from kidney failure, was kept on dialysis and eventually recovered enough to be discharged July 5 and to travel abroad for rehabilitation.

The following is a complete translation by The Interpreter of the interview in Moskovsky Komsomolets:

Valeriya Markova: I can’t help but ask your opinion on the reasons for your illness. There were several versions of the reasons in the media — it was a bad combination of medications, it was deliberate poisoning, and you were an accidental victim.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr: The diagnosis which I received was a high level of “intoxication,” but they did not manage to find out the reason exactly. It is hard for me to believe this was an accident, because I am a healthy person and so that one after another of my organs would start to shut down abruptly…But I can’t confirm anything because when I was in City Hospital No. 1 in Moscow, the doctors – and I am incredibly grateful to them,
they pulled me back from the other world literally; the experts gave me a 5% chance of survival when I landed there — but finding out the reason was not a priority for them. And when I went for rehabilitation in the US, too much time had passed for the tests to show anything definitive.

Valeriya Markova: Let’s talk about more pleasant things. On Friday evening [August 14], Mikhail Khodorkovsky announced that you are returning to work. What have you managed to do in these three days?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.: Mikhail Borisovich [Khodorkovsky] assigned me to run the Open Elections observer project which was started just this summer which will be rolled out on the Unified Election Day September 13.

We’re taking two regions — Kostroma Region, where we naturally count on close cooperation with the Parnas campaign staff, but it’s important to emphasize nonetheless that we are open to cooperation with all participants in the elections. And also Novosibirsk Region, where Parnas was denied entry to the elections, but we will observe them nonetheless. Our main purpose is not just recording but preventing falsifications, and we will orient our volunteers to exactly this. Their training will start soon.

Of course we are doing Open Elections with an aim to the Duma campaign of 2016. This is a trial run so that next year, the project will go into effect.

Valeriya Markova: And technically, how can you prevent violations from occurring?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.: With your indulgence, I won’t divulge the details now because we are only now opening up this project. We want to put the accent on prevention, so that that we don’t only say with a sad face after the stolen elections are summed up that there were such-and-such violations, it’s all terrible, but to try during the process to catch the fraudsters red-handed. The cases where observers managed to prevent ballot-box stuffing, carousel [repeat] voting, and re-writing of vote counts have already occurred and we want to streamline this and systematize this.

Of course we will cooperate with Golos and Sonar and Citizen Observer  — with all civic organizations which already have many years of work. Our project is not competing with them in any way. but again, our priority is Kostroma and Novosibirsk regions.

Valeriya Markova: As far as I understand, you are working in an online regimen abroad?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.: Yes, I am continuing my rehabilitation. Thank God, my head works. My handshake is strong. And modern communications enable me to be completely involved in the process. As soon as the doctors allow me I will return to Moscow, directly to my workplace.

Valeriya Markova: Will that be in the fall?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.: Most likely, yes. I don’t want to say yet because it doesn’t depend on me. When the doctors give me the green light.

Valeriya Markova
: I want to speak with you some more about the Democratic Coalition. It has been allowed into the elections only in one region, well, and Yegor Savin in Novosibirsk. In your view, why has that happened? And whose decision is it?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr
.: It’s absolutely obvious that this is done on command. Because the government understands perfectly well that there are no mythical 86% [Putin’s approval level–The Interpreter]. That this will all fall apart in one beautiful moment as soon as people begin to see a real alternative. The government that is remove an alternative from the elections is not a strange government, is not popular, and is not self-confident. Once again, the political field is being cleansed of opponent, and once again, the government is signalling its weakness. Its positions are hardly as strong as it would like to imagine. Especially in these regions: Novosibirsk and Kostroma. We know their electoral history, the positions of United Russia are not the best there.

Valeriya Markova: How do you evaluate the chances of Parnas in the regional elections?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.: As coordinator of Open Russia I can say that the result will largely depend on the presence or absence of falsifications. Other things being equal, I think the democratic opposition will have a serious result.

Valeriya Markova:
What are your personal plans in politics in the near term and in the long term?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.
: In the near term, heading the Open Elections project. I remain a coordinator of Open Russia, and will continue what we did last year — these are both civic projects and discussion platforms, and lectures and educational events.

Now I was out of the process for a few months, but my colleagues have continued to work and all the events continue to be run.

Valeriya Markova: But you have become deputy chair of Parnas, that is a political resource.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.: Yes, I wear two hats, as they say.  I think it is too early to talk about the 2016 elections. You know, the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said that a week is a long time in politics. And there is a year still before the Duma elections, and in a year, there can be so much water flowing past. I won’t try to guess so far ahead, my short-term plans are related to what we are doing in Open Russia.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick