WASHINGTON -- Russian opposition political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. has urged U.S. lawmakers in Washington to remain engaged with Russia’s pro-democracy movement.
Kara-Murza on March 29 told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that the Trump administration should keep pressure on the Russian authorities and President Vladimir Putin and take reports of his interference in foreign affairs seriously.
"For too many years, for too long, leaders of Western democracies have been just ignoring and moving on from what Mr. Putin has been doing," Kara-Murza said.
He said if the United States ignored the evidence that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it would encourage the Kremlin to increase foreign aggression along with domestic oppression.
Kara-Murza, 35, fell ill in Moscow on February 2 and spent several days in a medically induced coma.
He was released from the hospital on February 19 and underwent rehabilitation abroad.
Kara-Murza’s symptoms were almost identical to those he suffered in a near-fatal illness in 2015 that he said he believes was a deliberate poisoning in retaliation for his political activities.
Russian prosecutors rejected a request to open a criminal case in connection with the 2015 incident.
"Sometimes there are near misses" in Russian political murders, he told the senators. "And one happens to be sitting before you."
Kara-Murza is a veteran liberal political activist and was a friend of Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition politician who was shot dead near the Kremlin in February 2015.
Kara-Murza lobbied actively in the United States for the passage of the Magnitsky Act, which imposes targeted sanctions on Russian officials believed to have been involved in human rights abuses.
Kara-Murza, who showed no obvious signs of his poisoning during his Senate hearings, urged the United States to continue to apply the act, which since 2012 has sanctioned some 40 Russian nationals.
"This is not only about money. Much more importantly, it's about the message the U.S. sends to Russia's civil society," he said. "Do you choose to engage or to turn away?"
The appearance before the Foreign Operations Subcommittee is part of an inquiry into what Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) has called Russia's "misadventures throughout the world."
Graham has been a severe critic of U.S. President Donald Trump’s push for closer ties to Russia and Putin.