Survivor of two poison attacks: hit Abramovich to hurt Putin

Published by The Mail on Sunday (18th March, 2018)

A Russian dissident who has survived two attempts to poison him in the past three years has called on Britain to impose sanctions on Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice-chairman of the Open Russia pro-democracy movement, believes he was the target of ‘politically motivated’ attacks – one involving a poison with residues of heavy metal. Now he says  Theresa May’s government needs to drive out billionaire oligarchs linked to Putin after the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

‘The UK is a particularly attractive destination for oligarchs and their families,’ he said. He identified Abramovich, a former member of the Russian parliament, as among key figures who should face visa restrictions and asset-freezing. ‘He is one of the closest oligarchs to Putin,’ Mr Kara-Murza claimed.

He wants similar action taken against Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born billionaire with a big stake in Premier League club Arsenal. He also asked why the son of Vladimir Yakunin, a sanctioned ally of Putin, was permitted to live in Britain.

He said: ‘These people show double standards. They undermine democracy in Russia while they love to enjoy benefits of the West by sending children to school in Britain, holidaying in the South of France and shopping in New York. These are the people to target. You should not punish an entire country for the crimes of a small group.’

Mr Kara-Murza backs plans to introduce ‘Magnitsky’ legislation in the UK – a law named after a lawyer murdered in jail – that allows visa and asset-freezing for Russians tied to human rights abuse.

One of Putin’s most prominent critics, Mr Kara-Murza was poisoned in 2015 and then again in 2017. He doubts he would survive a third attack and has moved his family to the US for safety, but he vowed to keep on fighting.

‘It is very distressing,’ he said, adding that friends had been murdered and jailed. ‘This is what we face but we care about our country. If we did nothing, we would be complicit in the destruction of Russia. I am doing this for my children – I want them to be able to live in a free and democratic Russia.’


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