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Kremlin Critic Hospitalized With Similar Symptoms To 2015 Poison Scare


Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr.

A Kremlin critic whose sudden and severe illness in 2015 led to suspicions that he had been poisoned is on life support in a Moscow hospital with similar symptoms, his wife told RFE/RL.

Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., 35, was hospitalized early on February 2 and placed in an intensive-care unit "with symptoms similar to those he had two years ago," Yevgenia Kara-Murza said in a Facebook message.

"His doctors describe his condition as critical," she said. "He has low blood pressure [and] respiratory insufficiency, and the reason for this is yet again unclear."

She said later on February 2 that Kara-Murza suffered kidney failure and was on life support after being placed in an induced coma.

"The clinical picture, according to his doctors, is the same as last time," she said.

Kara-Murza abruptly fell ill in Moscow on May 26, 2015, and was in critical condition for several days. He spent about two months in hospitals in the Russian capital and outside Washington, D.C.

Kara-Murza believes he was deliberately poisoned with a sophisticated toxin and that he was targeted for his political activities.

Kara-Murza is a coordinator for former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's nongovernmental organization, Open Russia. He has also been a spokesman for the Russian political opposition in Washington, where he has advocated for sanctions against Russian officials and media executives before U.S. lawmakers.

Senior Democratic U.S. lawmakers on February 2 expressed support for the activist and urged action from the new administration of President Donald Trump.

"Troubling news given Putin's history of silencing opposition, and Vladimir Kara-Murza's previous poisoning," Senator Tim Kaine, who was former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's running mate last year, said on Twitter.

"Possible poisoning of Russian human rights leader Vladimir Kara-Murza needs investigating. Let's put #RussiaOnNotice," Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a former chairman and current member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote on Twitter.

His tweet referenced the Trump administration’s announcement a day earlier that it was putting Iran "on notice" over its recent medium-range ballistic-missile test.

Senator Benjamin Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that, while the details of Kara-Murza’s illness remain unclear, "it appears to be part of an alarming trend where Russian political opposition are targeted for their work."

"His hospitalization is a test for the Trump administration," Cardin said in a statement, adding that he urges Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to "speak out" on Kara-Murza’s behalf "and stand up for the principles that we have always championed as a country."

A dual Russian-British citizen, Kara-Murza splits his time between Russia and Centreville, Virginia, a Washington suburb where he resides with his wife and three children.

Other Suspected Poisonings

The precise cause of his 2015 illness remains under dispute, but it raised parallels with the cases of several Kremlin antagonists who have died or become violently ill in suspected poisonings during President Vladimir Putin's 16 years in power.

Most notably, former Russian security services officer Aleksandr Litvinenko died in November 2006 after he was poisoned with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 in London. British authorities accused former Federal Security Service officer and current Russian lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi of delivering the poison over tea at a London hotel, an allegation Lugovoi denies.

The medical team that treated Kara-Murza in 2015 initially concluded that his illness may have been linked to his use of a prescription antidepressant and a possible reaction with an allergy medication he was taking.

Independent experts told RFE/RL, however, that such a severe reaction -- including the failure of major organs -- to the drug Citalopram would be highly unusual.

Kara-Murza and his family dismiss this theory. An independent analysis of his blood and tissue samples by a prominent French forensic and toxicology expert led to no firm conclusions.

Yevgenia Kara-Murza told RFE/RL on February 2 that her husband had been traveling around Russia in recent weeks, conducting screenings of a documentary about former Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead outside the Kremlin in February 2015, and working with Open Russia representatives.

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