Peeling Back the Onion

Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza and his family have had a long history fighting against the Russian government. He is the son of Russian journalist and television host Vladimir Alexeyevich Kara-Murza (1959–2019), an outspoken critic of Leonid Brezhnev and a supporter of reforms under Boris Yeltsin. His father was a great-grandson of Latvian revolutionary Voldemārs Bisenieks (1884–1938), and great-grand-nephew of Latvia’s first Ambassador to Great Britain, Georgs Bisenieks (1885–1941), both of whom were shot by the NKVD. Kara-Murza is a Russian opposition politician and Boris Nemtsov’s protégé. He serves as vice-chairman of Open Russia, an NGO founded by Russian businessman and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which promotes civil society and democracy in Russia.

On 26 May 2015, Kara-Murza had eaten lunch at a restaurant in Moscow and felt normal afterwards. Then, over a ten to fifteen minute period during the following two-hour meeting, he rapidly became violently ill and began to vomit. At first, his illness was dismissed as heart difficulties, but treatment at a specialized cardiac clinic did nothing to arrest the symptoms. He was later diagnosed as having been poisoned and taken to the First City Hospital.

After the murder of his colleague, Boris Nemtsov, on 27 February 2015, his wife Yevgenia urged that he be evacuated from Russia for examination and treatment abroad. The cause of his sudden illness remained a mystery, but in an interview with the BBC his father commented, “if someone did want to frighten us, then they succeeded.”

Vladimir Kara-Murza in the Intensive Care Unit of Yudin Hospital

On 2 February 2017, Kara-Murza was hospitalized again after the onset of the exact same symptoms as his prior illness. He was put in a medically-induced coma placed on life support. He was treated at the same hospital by the same medical team who had already saved his life in 2015. According to his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, Kara-Murza was diagnosed by the hospital with a ‘toxic influence of an unknown substance’. He was released on 19 February and has gone abroad for rehabilitation. His lawyer sent the Russian Investigative Committee a request to open a criminal case into the alleged poisoning. A similar request was turned down without an explanation after the 2015 incident.

Recently, Bellingcat came out with another article stating months before Kara-Murza’s first poisoning in May 2015 – members of the FSB poison squad were accompanied by a senior official from the FSB’s 2nd Service – better known as the “Directorate for Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism”, Roman Mezentsev. Mezentsev previously traveled on joint bookings with high-level Kremlin officials including Vladislav Surkov, President Putin’s former advisor nicknamed The Grey Cardinal for his powerful backroom role in Kremlin politics.

The overlapping travel history of Vladimir Kara-Murza and his known FSB followers. - Bellingcat

Bellingcat discovered that in the three months prior to his unexplained poisoning, Kara-Murza had been tailed by the FSB during at least four trips he made out of Moscow, Russia. The one name connecting all four tailing trips is that of Alexander Samofal – an FSB officer who frequently traveled on joint trips with members of the poison squad.

On at least two trips shadowing Kara-Murza, Samofal was joined by Konstantin Kudryavtsev, the chemical weapons specialist who in December 2020 inadvertently confessed to having been in charge of evidence destruction in the Navalny poisoning case.

After Boris Nemtsov was murdered in late February 2017, a group of at least three FSB officers followed suit on a different flight. These were Alexander Samofal, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, and Roman Mezentsev, the senior officer from the FSB’s 2nd Service. Roman Mezentsev is the highest-ranking FSB officer Bellingcat identified on any tailing trip linked to an FSB poison squad operation.

Bellingcat explains how Mezentsev’s recent phone records also show that he communicated with scientist Col. Makshakov, the deputy chief of the FSB’s Criminalistics Institute and de facto chief of the FSB’s poisoning program. The pattern of communication between Mezentsev and Makshakov (after incoming calls from Mezentsev, Makshakov proceeded to call members of the poison squad – Osipov and Alexandrov, and then returned calls to Mezentsev) suggests that Mezentsev was the liaison officer of the 2nd Service supervising these poisoning operations. This pattern was most recently observed on 27 July 2020, just days before the Navalny poisoning operation in Tomsk was initiated.

More and more evidence is appearing showing how the Russian intelligence service are a part of these killings!

What more can we give you to have you reach out to your officials and make sure future attacks like these will never happen again?

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