The Putin Files: Vladimir Kara-Murza

MICHAEL KIRK – Let’s start with the naming
of President Putin back in 1999. What was the expectation when he steps up? And even earlier than that, why Putin? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – Well, of course,
the biggest and the initial reaction when people heard his name being announced as acting
prime minister on the 9th of August, 1999, by President Yeltsin, the first reaction is,
“Who is that?” Most people had never heard of this guy. He was an obscure KGB official who rose from
being deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s to being deputy chief of staff of the
Kremlin and then director of the FSB, the Federal Security Service, the main domestic
successor to the KGB. From this position, he went on to become acting
prime minister of Russia in August of ’99. Then parliament quickly confirmed him because
nobody thought much of this. If you recall ‘98 and ‘99, we had a succession
of four or five prime ministers within several months. This was considered the temp job at the time,
prime minister of Russia, so nobody paid much attention. I remember this well, the summer of 1999. Everybody was consumed with the upcoming parliamentary
election, which was scheduled for December and took place in December of 1999. By the way, this was the last national parliamentary
election in Russia that was assessed by European and international monitors as free and fair
and as conforming to democratic standards. So for the past almost 18 years, we have not
had a free and fair national election in our country, just as an aside. But at the time, everybody was consumed with
the election, and nobody really paid attention to some guy who was made prime minister, as
many people thought this was only going to be for a few weeks or few months, just like
the others. Now, of course, here we are 18 years on, the
man is still in power. He’s now approaching the record of Leonid
Brezhnev, one of the longest serving leaders of the Soviet Union and in many ways a symbol
of Soviet totalitarian stagnation. Brezhnev [had] been in power for 18 years,
and as of this August, or, to be more precise, as of December 2017, Vladimir Putin will have
been in power for 18 years. There’s now an entire generation of Russians
who have grown up not knowing any other political reality, who only have a memory of Putin in
power. In fact, the people, young Russians who will
turn 18, who will become voters and who will come to vote for the first time in March of
2018 for the presidential election, or the so-called presidential election, I should
say, these people will have been born under Vladimir Putin. This is how long he’s been in power. Of course, back in 1999, I don’t think anybody
thought that this is how long it would take. Most people, even people who are interested
in politics, would follow politics closely, would have no idea who this guy was. Some people knew him in St. Petersburg from
his days as deputy mayor there. Some people knew him from his days as director
of the FSB. But again, he was somebody who was never prominent
in politics, who had never run for elected office in his life. You’ve got to remember, the first election
Vladimir Putin ran for in his life was election for president of Russia. He’s never run for parliament; he’s never
run for regional legislature, for regional governor, nothing. He had no political experience at all. MICHAEL KIRK – What had he done to distinguish
himself, anything in that period when he’s the prime minister and then the anointed candidate
of Boris Yeltsin? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – Well, that was a
very short time, just from August to December. That time was marked by a complete political
shift in Russia of that time, a political shift caused and spearheaded by the second
war in Chechnya, which Mr. Putin was the author and initiator of. Just a few weeks after he became prime minister,
we had a very suspicious [spate] of apartment bombings across Russia; in Moscow, in Buinaksk,
in Volgodonsk, apartment buildings are blown up, supposedly by Chechen terrorists. This is what was officially announced as the
reason for those terrorist attacks. Hundreds of people were killed, innocent people,
civilians just sleeping in their homes. This, of course, led to a public backlash,
understandably, against the supposed perpetrators of these terrorist attacks. This created the conditions and the political
space for the Putin government to go into Chechnya and begin a second military campaign
there. There was the original war in Chechnya, [which]
took place from 1994 to 1996 and ended with a truce and then finally with a peace agreement
in 1997. When Mr. Putin came to power as prime minister
of Russia in the summer of 1999, there hadn’t been war in Chechnya for more than three years
already, but he restarted it. He sent troops again. He began a bombing campaign. In these kind of conditions of this mass war
hysteria, of this big scare—again, understandable when you have houses, apartment buildings
being blown up randomly in the middle of the night across the country—all of this created
the conditions for somebody who was basically completely unknown and the party which was
just created literally a few weeks before the election was announced. Just thrown [together] from different pieces,
it was called Unity. It’s now United Russia, the ruling party,
and it’s led by Vladimir Putin. Within the space of a few weeks, he went from
being a nobody to winning the parliamentary election—his party winning the parliamentary
election in December of 1999 on the back of the military campaign in Chechnya, on the
back of this mass hysteria and the demand that the government do something, and he appeared
to be doing something. He won the parliamentary election in December
and then, of course, as we all know, on New Year’s Eve, on Dec. 31, 1999, President
Yeltsin made the surprise announcement that he was resigning, stepping down, and Putin
took over as acting president of Russia initially. In March of 2000, he won the presidential
election. That was by no means a flawless election,
by the way. It’s also important to remember this. There were credible reports at the time of
ballot stuffing and rewriting of vote tallies in several regions, so there were strong doubts
as to whether Mr. Putin actually secured the necessary 50 percent of the vote to win in
the first round of the 2000 presidential election. That was the last thing we had that was at
least close to a competitive election in Russia. This was March 2000, the presidential election. As we just talk about parliamentary elections,
this was exactly the same case with presidential. After 2000, not a single national election
in Russia, parliamentary or presidential, has been assessed by international monitors
as free and fair and conforming to democratic standards. MICHAEL KIRK – Did you watch the Yeltsin statement? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – Of course. MICHAEL KIRK – Can you take me back there
for a moment? What was that? Was it a surprise? What was it like for you? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – It was, of course,
a surprise. It was very sad as well, because I’m from
the generation whose first really vivid and conscious political memory was August ‘91,
the democratic revolution in Russia; those three days that ended the Soviet regime and
revolutionized our country in so many ways. I remember those three days in August very
well, though I was only 10 years old at the time. When something like this is happening in your
country, you notice, and you remember. The lesson that I took from those events and
that I know I’ll have for the rest of my life is that however strong the dictatorship and
the repression, if enough dedicated people are prepared to stand their ground and stand
up for their liberty and their rights and their dignity, they will prevail, as we saw
in August ‘91. The plotters of the attempted coup, the leadership
of the Soviet Communist Party and the KGB, had everything. They were the state. They had the whole apparatus, the whole machine
of repression, the whole machine of propaganda—the KGB, the police, the army, the tanks. Of course they had the tanks, which they sent
physically to occupy central Moscow. And the people, Russians, Muscovites who stood
up against that coup had nothing except their dignity and their determination to defend
their rights and their freedoms. They went out and stood in the streets of
Moscow in front of the tanks for three days and three nights, and the tanks stopped and
turned away. That’s a very powerful lesson. And Boris Yeltsin was a key figure in that. He was a hero of that democratic revolution,
no questions about it. He was the one who stood on top of that tank
as a symbol, as a powerful symbol of the resistance against those plotters, against that coup,
and he, of course, led Russia for a very difficult, very tumultuous period, the 1990s. We had many economic difficulties; we had
many problems in the Caucuses; we had many problems with the whole reformation of the
state. A lot of people experienced hardships in the
1990s under that government. But also, it was under Boris Yeltsin that
we had genuine independent media in Russia, that we had free democratic and competitive
elections in Russia, both parliamentary and presidential; that we had strong regionals. We had real federalism; we had real pluralism. This was one of the very few periods in Russian
history when we had democracy and political freedom. Boris Yeltsin, for all his shortcomings and
all his mistakes, he was an absolutely historic figure in Russian history, and I think history
will remember him very kindly, much kinder than people at the time thought of him. I remember this was a very sad moment when
he resigned. Of course nobody really knew what was coming
next because nobody really knew who this guy was. Of course you remember the beginning of 2000,
at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trudy Rubin of Philadelphia Inquirer asked her famous
question to a panel of Russian politicians and experts: “Who is Mr. Putin?” There was a pause, silence in the room for
a few seconds, and then everybody started laughing, because nobody knew who this guy
was. Here he was, the head of state of the largest
country in the world, one of the two largest nuclear powers in the world, a member of the
G-8, a member of the United Nations Security Council, and nobody knew who this guy was. Of course we know now very well. I must say, for those who are willing to see
and for those who are willing to notice, there were signs at the time of who this guy will
be. I’ll give you an example. I actually remember the day when I realized
who Vladimir Putin was. This was December the 20th, 1999. It was 11 days before he would become acting
president. He was still prime minister; Boris Yeltsin
was still president. That day, Mr. Putin did two things. Dec. 20 is the Chekist Day, the day of the
founding of the Cheka, the KGB, the Soviet secret police, still, by the way, astonishingly,
still officially commemorated in Russia today. On that day, he went and unveiled a memorial
plaque to his mentor, Yuri Andropov, on the KGB headquarters in Moscow, in Lubyanka Square. Yuri Andropov was the longtime chairman of
the Soviet KGB, infamous for having set up the Fifth Directorate, which was a special
directorate within the KGB tasked with suppressing political dissent. He was going after dissidents in the Soviet
Union. He was almost infamous for setting up the
practice of punitive psychiatry. This is when dissidents were declared mentally
insane and committed to psychiatric hospitals. If you were against the Soviet regime, you
were declared to be insane. This is what Andropov did. And on December the 20th, 1999, Putin opened
a memorial plaque to Andropov in deference and respect to him. That same evening, he addressed a meeting,
a gathering of KGB veterans in Moscow, and he told them publicly, in front of cameras,
with a smile on his face, he said, “I can report to you that a group of FSB officers
assigned to work undercover in the government of the Russian Federation are fulfilling their
mission,” and everybody started clapping. Some people, I remember still, thought at
the time that this was a quaint joke. Of course now we know it was anything but. But that was the day—there were many others. I’m not saying this was the only thing. Of course, for a lot of people it was the
war in Chechnya that really showed who Mr. Putin was, and that was even before that. That was in the summer of 1999. I just happen to remember that day really
vividly because Russia is a country of symbols, and if you begin your tenure by honoring somebody
like Andropov, a symbol of Soviet totalitarian repression, that’s not a very good sign for
an upcoming administration. MICHAEL KIRK – … We spend a little time
in the film, or will spend a little time in the film, on [the school siege in] Beslan
and what happened there as another marker of something. Tell us that story. VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – Well, first of all,
I think it’s important to recall that the first victim of Vladimir Putin’s regime was
independent media. In fact, four days after he was inaugurated
as president in May of 2000, four days after that, he sent armed operatives from the prosecutor
general’s service and the tax police to raid the offices of Media-Most, which was at the
time the largest independent media holding in Russia, the parent company of NTV, the
most popular independent television network in Russia that was known for its hard-hitting
political analysis and satire and criticism of the authorities, including of Vladimir
Putin himself. Within the first couple of years of his rule,
Putin went after every nationwide independent television network, either shutting them down
or taking them under state control, which is what happened to NTV. Then they shut down TV 6. He shut down TVS in 2003. This was the last privately owned nationwide
television channel that he closed. And of course it was very logical why he began
with this, because a lot of the other things that he would go on to do would be impossible
if he had a real independent media that would hold the regime and its actions to account. It would be much more difficult, for instance,
to rig elections on the scale that Putin has been doing it if things were open and openly
discussed in the media. It would be much more difficult to do what
he did with Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Yukos oil company, making this showcase that the
business community should keep out of politics by imprisoning the richest man in Russia,
who dared to expose government corruption and support opposition parties and society
groups. Something like this would have been much more
difficult to do if he had all sides represented in the public view. The corruption, the issue that we keep talking
about in Russia, especially in the last several years, the absolutely mammoth, overwhelming
corruption and nepotism that Putin’s regime has created, needless to say, that would have
been more difficult had there been genuine independent media on a large scale, as there
had been in Russia in the 1990s. And of course, the case of Beslan shows why
it was so important for Putin to silence those independent media voices right at the beginning
of his rule, because we can certainly not imagine that had there been real genuine media
coverage of the events in Beslan and the hostage crisis in Beslan, had there been a nationwide
television network that would have honestly covered what was going on, I think it’s
impossible to imagine that the president of Russia could have given the order to attack,
to storm a school where children were being held as hostages and so many of these children
were killed as a result of the decision he took. I think it’s in the context of the already
solidified authoritarian, undemocratic regime which had already been in place by the time
the Beslan terrorist attack happened in September of 2004 that I think we have to look at the
whole of this thing. MICHAEL KIRK – And then the act of essentially
disbanding the governors as a further political consolidation of power. VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – … I’m a historian
by training, so I always do try to find analogies, because most of these things have happened
before. And I think the way Vladimir Putin consolidated
his power in Russia in the early 2000s was very similar to the way Benito Mussolini consolidated
his power in Italy in the early 1920s. Mussolini’s advice was to pluck the chicken
feather by feather to lessen the squawking. That’s how he put it. In other words, don’t try to do it all in
one day, all at the same time. Do it incrementally, gradually, carefully,
step by step. This is how Mussolini did it, and this is
how Putin did it. Putin first went after independent media,
independent television, and destroyed them. He then went after the opposition in parliament
and after the electoral process, beginning to rig elections and booting out the democratic
opposition from the Russian parliament in 2003, rendering parliament a rubber stamp
for his initiatives. He then went after the business community
with the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man, who had the tenacity
to expose government corruption and support opposition parties in elections. That was a clear message of, “Don’t do
this. If you’re going to do this, this is what’s
going to happen to you,” a final step in the transformation of what was a flawed and
problematic but basically a democratic political system in Russia when Putin came to power
to a full-blown authoritarian regime that we have today. The last major step to that was after the
Beslan terrorist attack, when Putin cynically used the terrorist attack, the hostage crisis,
to abolish direct elections for regional governors in Russia and to also change rules in parliamentary
elections, after which the last remaining few independent lawmakers were thrown out
of the Russian parliament. Parliament finally became, as its own speaker
famously, or infamously, said, “Parliament is not a place for discussion.” That’s what Boris Gryzlov, Putin’s party colleague
from United Russia and former speaker of the Russian State Duma [the Russian Assembly]
said. I think that’s going to be one of the quotes
that defines the Putin era politically in Russia. Parliament is not a place for discussion. You can’t put it any better than he did. MICHAEL KIRK – … Let’s talk about the things
that worry him ’03, 04, ’05, ’06. The color revolutions …  Help me just understand
what’s going on with him and why he fears his own population. VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – Well, a lot of this
is a propaganda image created by Putin state TV, this message that when people rise up
to defend their rights and their freedoms and to protest against rigged elections, for
example, that this is not the people themselves rising up; this is all instigated and manipulated
from Washington, from the State Department, from God knows where. He’s been saying these things openly. You remember when the mass protests broke
out in Russia against Putin’s rule at the end of 2011 after the rigged parliamentary
elections of that year, Putin openly blamed it on the U.S. government, which was absolutely
mind-boggling. It shows you, also, it opens up a little bit
of his paranoid KGB mindset, which shouldn’t be surprising because that’s what he was taught. That’s what he did all of his life. MICHAEL KIRK – What’s the KGB mindset? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – We all have some
kind of education and background and experience. Some people are educated to be physicists
or chemists or historians or mathematicians or economists. They all have things they learn, things they
do, their own trade, their own knowledge, their own expertise. What do you think they teach at the Andropov
Institute of the KGB? They teach you to recruit; they teach you
to lie; they teach you to subvert; they teach you to lead double lives. This is what this guy has done for his entire
life ever since he turned up at the door of the KGB directorate in Leningrad voluntarily
after school to go to work for that organization. That also says a lot about someone who in
the 1970s, at the height of the totalitarian era, would openly volunteer to go and work
for the KGB. There’s a lot of this mindset that he still
shows very often. For instance, when he blames the mass protests
on some foreign governments, some schemes, that’s actually another thing, I think, to
do with his KGB mindset. It’s genuinely difficult for somebody like
that to understand that not everything is manipulated and bought and purchased. Sometimes people are just genuinely fed up,
and they go out to the streets because that’s the only way left for them to be heard, and
they want to defend themselves and their dignity and their freedom. He should have really got this message by
now that it’s possible. He’s seen it in East Germany at the end
of the ‘80s when he was stationed there. He saw it, of course, in Russia itself in
‘91 during our democratic revolution. He saw it again, very unpleasantly for him,
in 2011 and 2012 during the largest opposition demonstrations under Putin’s rule in Russia,
when tens of thousands of people went to the streets across the country to protest against
him. But you asked what other things he’s most
afraid of or most uncomfortable with. I think there are only two things that Vladimir
Putin is genuinely afraid of. The first is mass protests on the streets
of Russia. That makes him really nervous, and for good
reason, because he’s seen what that can do to dictators and to corrupt strongmen in
other countries, including former communist countries like Serbia, like Georgia, like
Ukraine. He’s seen where this can lead, and he’s
[mortally afraid] of this. You can see this reaction both in 2011 and
2012 during the first wave of mass protest against the Putin regime and now, in 2017,
since the start of this new protest movement at the beginning of this year, how nervous
the regime has been about this and how much of a crackdown they tried to engage in against
this peaceful opposition movement. So that’s the first thing. The second thing they’re [mortally afraid]
of are individual targeted Western sanctions against officials and oligarchs in the Putin
regime. We already talked about the many similarities
that exist between the Putin regime and the Soviet regime, and there are very many similarities. We have political prisoners in Russia again
today. We have no free and fair elections. We have censorship in the media and so on
and so forth. But for all the many similarities, political
similarities, there’s one important difference, crucial difference, in terms of the nature
of the group of people and the regime in power. While members of the Soviet Politburo were
jailing dissidents and muzzling independent opinions and putting people in prison in psychiatric
hospitals, they didn’t keep their money in Western banks. They didn’t send their children to study in
Western schools. They didn’t buy homes and yachts in Western
countries. People in the Putin regime do that. They want to rule inside Russia like it’s
a Third World dictatorship, denying people the basic rights and freedoms, but they themselves
want to use the privileges and the freedoms and the opportunities of the Western world,
of Western democracies, for themselves and for their families. They want to steal in Russia and spend in
the West. This is their modus vivendi; this is how these
people live. When beginning in 2012 with the Magnitsky
Act being passed in the U.S. Congress, by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, with the
West beginning to finally put an end to this impunity and finally beginning to hold these
people accountable for what they do and what they have done, and declaring and laying down
this principle, very simple principle—that if you trample and abuse the most basic principles
of a civilized world, you should not be allowed to enjoy the privileges the civilized world
has to offer. That really is not a very complicated principle. It’s very simple, and it’s also the right
thing to do. Since the West has finally begun to do this—in
many ways because of the efforts of Russian opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov, who
was instrumental in convincing the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act over opposition
from the Obama administration, by the way—this really was a nightmare for Putin’s Kremlin. We have seen all the efforts that Putin’s
Kremlin has engaged in over the last several years to try to stop and undermine and overturn
this process of introducing targeted personal sanctions. He did it both officially and unofficially
just a few hours after his inauguration in May of 2012, for his current presidential
term. He signed an order, an official order to a
foreign ministry of Russia tasking it with trying to stop the Magnitsky Act. This was put on paper as official Russian
presidential policy. He has also engaged in blackmail to try to
undermine the Magnitsky Act by linking it to continued adoptions of Russian orphans
by U.S. citizens. Absolutely mind-boggling if you think about
it. Putin retaliated for targeted individual sanctions
on human rights abusers who were prevented from doing their Christmas shopping on New
York’s Fifth Avenue by denying Russian orphans, Russian kids, many of them disabled Russian
kids, basically a chance in life, saying, “Let them rot in horrible conditions in
Russian orphanages, and I’m going to ban their adoptions by U.S. citizens because the U.S.
has banned our U.S. human rights abusers from going.” If you need a moral portrait of the Putin
regime, that’s the best example. As [the] prominent Russian columnist Valery
Panyushkin said at the time, there are only two organizations in the world that use their
own children as human shields against their enemies. One is Hamas, and the other is United Russia
Party, led by Vladimir Putin. Of course, all these stories that we keep
hearing just in the last few days about the meeting at Trump Tower in June of 2016, I
think a lot of people are discussing all the other aspects of this meeting, but not enough
attention is paid to the actual substance of it. The reason it took place is because these
two unofficial proxies acting for Putin’s regime for the Kremlin, they tried to secure
this meeting in order to try to undermine and overturn the Magnitsky Act. This has been absolutely central. So the two biggest fears, biggest nightmares
of the Putin regime, are mass protests on the streets of Russia, mass protests by the
people of Russia against his regime, which we are increasingly seeing since the beginning
of this year, and I think we’ll see only more of in the coming months and years; and
the second one is those targeted personal individual sanctions against crooks and human
rights abusers in Putin regime. Personal [sanctions], this is very important—not
sanctions on Russia. An entire country should not be blamed for
the actions of a small, unelected group of people in the Kremlin. Responsibility should be assigned where it
is due, to those people who actually perpetrate these abuses. This is why the Magnitsky Act was so groundbreaking. It introduced this concept that you can sanction
not a whole country, not even the government of that country, but you can actually sanction
those specific people who are engaged in those abuses and in that corruption and in those
human rights violations. That was very honorable and principled, as
well as very effective. MICHAEL KIRK – … Explain his [Putin’s] response
to Hillary’s statements that the [2011] election had been rigged and people should hit the
streets. What is his reaction to that? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – This goes to this
whole mindset of trying to see conspiracies everywhere and this paranoid idea that everything
that happens, there are some secret masterminds standing behind it. He just cannot accept the idea that so many
people in Russia are fed up with his rule, are unhappy about his rule; that they’re fed
up with being treated like a doormat; that they want to be citizens of their own country,
as opposed to voiceless subjects; and that people can actually be unhappy about their
votes being stolen and the elections being rigged. That’s what happened in 2011. That’s just first of all, just talk about
this. What happened in 2011 was an absolutely blatant
and brazen rigging of a parliamentary election. This was not the first time a Russian election
was rigged. This happened many times under Putin. But this was the first time this was done
so openly and brazenly and unashamedly, and they didn’t even try to deny it. Because this was already the age of the Internet
and social media, all this information, these videos and photos of ballot stuffing and rewriting
of vote tallies, spread in a matter of hours. Just a few days after that election, more
than 100,000 people came out to the center of Moscow just across the river from the Kremlin
in Bolotnaya Square to say: “No, enough. We are fed up with this.” This was the largest demonstration held in
Russia, in Moscow, since the democratic revolution of August 1991. It was followed by an even larger one on Andrei
Sakharov Avenue just a few days later at the end of December 2011. Of course Putin was terrified, and his regime
was terrified, and they responded initially by quickly issuing some political concessions
to the protesters; for instance, reinstating direct elections for regional governors that
they’d abolished after the terrorist attack in Beslan. Remember in 2010, Dmitry Medvedev, who was
then caretaker president, taking Putin’s place while he was constitutionally barred from
serving as president for a term, Medvedev said publicly that he was asked when the Russian
government is going to reinstate direct elections for regional governors, and he said not in
100 years. Of course a year after that, when 100,000
people went out to the streets of Moscow and stood across the river from the Kremlin, it
took him a few days to reinstate direct elections for governors. They did a few other small things like they
registered a couple of opposition parties; they released a few political prisoners. So they hurriedly began issuing some concessions. Then they went into crackdown mode, and they
began arresting people and trying people, including opposition activists and opposition
leaders. There are still people sitting in prisons
today, more than five years after those protests, for taking part in those protests in Bolotnaya
Square. And of course he began to blame the West and
Western governments, and in particular the U.S. administration, for instigating those
protests and standing behind them. This is a continuation of the same line they’ve
used with regard to the so-called color revolutions in other post-communist countries like Serbia,
like Georgia, like Ukraine. That was the message, the propaganda message,
that this was all done by Western puppet masters to try to get at him, at Putin. This was the message he repeated with regard
to the Russian protest in Moscow and other cities in Russia in 2011 and 2012. When Hillary Clinton made that statement,
first of all, she didn’t say anything particularly revolutionary. She just repeated what the observers from
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had stated, and that was that this
election was not free, not fair and not democratic. This was just stating a basic fact. There was nothing really groundbreaking about
this. She just honestly said what the OSCE observers
had concluded. Of course Putin was furious, and the Kremlin
was furious. They said, “This is interference in our
internal affairs,” and so on and so forth, a favorite phrase, by the way, that they use,
despite the fact that this phrase is a lie because Russia is a full member of the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as is the United States, as is every country
in the European Union. The rules of that organization and the statutes
of that organization clearly state, black and white, that matters relating to the rule
of law, to human rights and to democracy, including election standards, cannot be considered
internal affairs. They are subject are international obligations
and international concern. So when Vladimir Putin and [Foreign Minister]
Sergei Lavrov are saying that these are interferences into internal affairs, they are—how shall
I say it most diplomatically?—they are misspeaking. But this is what he did; this was his reaction. There’s nothing particularly new about this. This is what he does when he’s under siege
politically: he begins blaming people for his problems. Instead of just admitting and accepting that
there are increasing numbers of Russian people who are unhappy and fed up with his rule and
are beginning to protest against him, he’s saying that these are all conspiracies masterminded
by some governments in the West. Pretty ironic, actually, with regard to the
Obama administration, because the Obama administration had been the one who declared a reset in relations
with Putin regime. President Obama had praised Putin publicly
as somebody who’s done tremendous work on behalf of the Russian people, and Hillary
Clinton was the one who pressed the reset button. There’s also a very important lesson, I think,
in all this. Both previous U.S. presidents, and technically
Bill Clinton was the first president who coincided with Putin, but he was only there—he was
basically a lame duck by then. It was his last year or so; he didn’t really
have a chance to do much. But both U.S. presidents who had their full
terms under Vladimir Putin, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, tried to be friendly with
him, as we well know. We remember George W. Bush looking into Putin’s
eyes and getting a sense of his soul and praising Putin as a true reformer. We remember Barack Obama declaring a reset
in relations with the Putin regime and praising Putin as somebody who’s done tremendous
work on behalf of the Russian people. … This was very naive and not very wise
and farsighted to try to have a friendly relationship with a corrupt authoritarian regime. There cannot be a convergence of interests
or even a real relationship based on mutual trust and mutual understanding between, on
the one hand, a constitutional democracy—that is the United States—and a corrupt authoritarian
dictatorship that is Vladimir Putin’s regime. And if history teaches us anything, it’s that
making short-term, cynical deals with authoritarian governments is not a good strategy for a democratic
nation. I think both George W. Bush and Barack Obama
found this the hard way. MICHAEL KIRK – One of the moments that we
spent some time on surrounds the events in Crimea and Ukraine, assessing in some ways
Obama’s government’s arguments, internal arguments, about whether they should arm the Ukrainians
against the onslaught of the Russian troops; whether Obama should have confronted more
forcefully with at least lethal defensive weapons Putin’s taking of Crimea, initiation
of conflict. The argument inside the American government,
forcefully made by Victoria Nuland and many others, was we have to draw the line somewhere,
and this could be and should be a great human rights place to draw the line. Let’s do it because somebody has to draw
the line and face him. What is your sense of how Putin would have
reacted if Obama would have been forceful? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – You know what I think? Probably 2014 was a little bit late in trying
to draw the line against Vladimir Putin. When Vladimir Putin came to power at the end
of 1999, beginning of 2000, he tried to tread very carefully at first. He was testing both Russian public opinion
and international public opinion and the views of Western leaders and Western governments
to what he was doing and the reaction to what he was doing. And there was no reaction. When he went after and shut down and destroyed
independent national television networks in Russia, there was no reaction. In fact, just a few weeks after the Putin
government seized control of NTV, the largest independent TV channel in Russia, he had that
famous summit meeting with George W. Bush when he looked into his eyes and got a sense
of his soul. This was a few weeks after the takeover of
NTV. Two days after the Putin government pulled
the plug on the last independent nationwide television network in Russia TVS, in June
2003, two days after that, Putin was treated to a royal reception, literally, of the London
Guild Hall with the queen of England and with Tony Blair, the British prime minister. He was praised, and it was all pomp and circumstance. I think he could be forgiven for getting the
wrong message that Western leaders really didn’t care about this. One thing to understand about how Russian
political history works and how Russian political dynamics work, certainly in the modern era,
is that there was a direct correlation between the domestic nature of the regime and the
way he behaves abroad, the way he behaves outside of Russian borders. Domestic repression is inevitably followed,
sooner or later, by external aggression. This is absolutely logical if you think about
it. What’s the reason for expecting a government
that violates the rights of its own people and that breaks its own laws, why would you
expect it to then abide by international norms and respect the interests of other countries
or international borders? As Putin grew bolder and bolder and consolidated
his control domestically, and as he basically saw no reaction from the international community,
all of his crackdown on the independence of the media, all of his crackdown on parliament
and his rigging of elections, and the Yukos case and the abolition of regional governors,
and this authoritarian consolidation at home, he grew bolder and bolder and more assertive. And he thought, as he could be forgiven for
doing, why not go on, and why not do even more things? I think those people, those political leaders
in Western countries, who had chosen to ignore the crackdown on independence of the media
and the rigging of elections and the destruction of democratic institutions in Russia, they
woke up one day to see a violation of international borders in Europe, to see the first territorial
annexation in Europe since the Second World War, which is what Putin did in Crimea in
2014. These are all directly linked. Had the international community and had the
leaders of Western democracies taken a more principled stand earlier on in Putin’s rule,
instead of praising him and trying to engage him and be friendly with him, as he was destroying
democracy in Russia, I think had they taken a more principled line earlier on, we would
not be seeing the excesses that we are seeing today, including violations of international
borders. MICHAEL KIRK – So it was too late for Obama
to step up by then. Is that what you’re saying? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – If we’re talking
about drawing lines against the Putin regime, there have been so many lines that failed
to be drawn after 2000. I’m not saying that if you didn’t begin to
draw lines at the beginning, you should just go on not drawing. I’m not saying that. But I’m just wondering how effective it would
be to begin drawing a line against an aggressive dictator in the 15th year of him being in
power. MICHAEL KIRK – It also seems—we haven’t
talked at all about this—but it seems that Putin, the former KGB man and asymmetrical
warrior, …  was equipped by 2015, 2014, in there around Ukraine with what has been
called hybrid warfare tactics and capabilities from hard power to cyber power to information
war. It looks almost to us like what Ukraine is
is a road test for that kind of warfare. VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – That also has a long
history. The KGB, Putin’s alma mater, professional
alma mater, has been involved in so-called active measures for years and decades. The Soviet regime is not just engaged in actual
physical war. They’ve done a lot of the clandestine stuff
and active measures against the opponents, perceived opponents. So I think that’s certainly true, what you’re
saying. There’s nothing new in this, too. In terms of Ukraine, I think it’s also important
to note the fact that the main motivation for Putin’s aggression against Ukraine that
began in 2014 was not geopolitical or post-imperialist or foreign policy-driven. It was domestic. He really didn’t enjoy the precedent of a
corrupt authoritarian strongman in a country so close to Russia culturally, historically,
linguistically, you name it, as Ukraine is being overthrown by a popular uprising, by
a popular democratic revolution. He really didn’t like those images of Mr.
[Viktor] Yanukovych hastily boarding his helicopter to flee as hundreds of thousands of people
are demonstrating on the streets of the capital. I think his overarching goal behind his aggression
against Ukraine in 2014 was to try to prevent the success of the democratic European experiment
in Ukraine, to try to crush the Maidan in Kiev before it will become a model and an
inspiration for a Maidan in Moscow. This is why he has done and continues to do
what he does against Ukraine. In a way, what Putin is doing in Ukraine is
a proxy war against Russian society in trying to prevent the same political developments
that happened in Ukraine. MICHAEL KIRK – Let’s go to the American election
in 2016. When you first heard about the allegations
that it was Russia meddling in our election, what did you think? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – I thought, first
of all, let’s be accurate with the terms—not Russia but the Putin regime and Russian officials
of the Russian government, absolutely. MICHAEL KIRK – The Kremlin, whatever you want
to call it. VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – Absolutely. I was not at all surprised, because the Putin
regime has had a long history of meddling in elections, first of all, of course, in
Russian elections. This is how they began. One of the first targets of the Putin regime
has been the electoral process in Russia. Since he came to power all those years ago,
we have not had a free and fair and democratic national election in Russia, not one. This is not me saying it; this is according
to the reports from international monitors. He’s been meddling with the Russian electoral
process for years. He has been meddling in the electoral process
in other countries for years. And we know all of this. Look at what they’ve been doing in Ukraine,
in Georgia, in Moldova and other countries. Since he’s been doing it, again, with almost
no reaction, including from the international community, then in his logic, in a dictator’s
logic, why not continue doing it and why not go for the gold, as it were, and try to do
in the U.S. what he’s done before in Ukraine and Georgia? MICHAEL KIRK –  … Tell me about the death
of Boris Nemtsov and what you think happened, where it fits into this larger story we’ve
been discussing. VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – In terms of the larger
story, we know that there’s been a very high mortality rate in the last several years among
the people who have crossed the path of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin: independent journalists,
anti-corruption campaigners, opposition activists, opposition leaders. Many people have died, some in strange and
unexplained deaths, others just straight-out assassinations. The assassination of Boris Nemtsov was the
most brazen, the most high-profile political assassination in modern Russia, and the political
responsibility for this lies squarely with Vladimir Putin and his regime. When the leader of the opposition is assassinated
in the shadow of the Kremlin just 200 yards from the Kremlin Wall in what is probably
the most well-guarded and secure location, not just in Moscow but probably in the whole
of Europe, the political responsibility for this lies with the regime, with the atmosphere
that’s created over the years, including with its propaganda, where political opponents
of Mr. Putin are vilified and denounced as traitors and foreign agents and enemies of
Russia. And of course Boris Nemtsov was the most prominent
political opponent of Vladimir Putin. He was the strongest political opponent of
Vladimir Putin. He was unique in so many ways. First of all, he had a very rare combination
in today’s politics: He had successful government experience, because he’s been a regional
governor, a very successful one, in the ‘90s. He worked in the federal government as deputy
prime minister. He was a member of parliament, leader of the
parliamentary opposition, on the one hand. On the other hand, he had a very good reputation
and background. He never worked for the Putin regime. He spent years defending democracy and rule
of law in Russia when he could have easily chosen to do something easier, like so many
other people have. So many people who are thought of as democrats
and liberals in Russia back in the ‘90s when Putin came to power and began doing what
he was doing, they settled for the easy and comfortable option, either finding a place
in the regime or in structures close to the regime or in big business, or in the worst
case leaving the country and settling in the safety of exile. Boris Nemtsov didn’t do that. He chose to stay and fight for his country
and for the future of his country against a kleptocratic, authoritarian regime that
he saw as destroying the future of Russia. And he gave his all to this. He was the strongest and the best of all of
us. He was an amazing communicator. I worked with him, alongside him, for more
than 15 years. I’ve seen him in many different situations. I can tell you, I’ve not seen anybody like
this. He could speak on the same level and with
the same effectiveness to American and European parliamentarians and ministers and to a local
saleswoman in the market in the Yaroslavl region, on the same level with the same effectiveness. He could come into a room with 500 people,
and you could feel the tension in the air. You could feel that most of those people are
hostile to him, and not surprising, given all this propaganda that’s been pushed out
on state TV for years against him. When he would speak to those people for an
hour, for two hours, for three hours, taking questions, arguing back, talking, explaining
his position, after he was done, two-thirds of the audience was on his side. I’ve never seen this with anyone. He is the only leader of the so-called nonsystemic
opposition in Russia who managed to win an election. In Russia under Vladimir Putin, this isn’t
possible. Nobody else has managed to do this. Boris Nemtsov won in 2013; he was elected
as a lawmaker in the Yaroslavl region. At the same time, as we already discussed,
he was instrumental in convincing the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act that targeted
individual sanctions against Putin’s regime and its human rights abusers. Sen. John McCain, one of the chief authors
of the Magnitsky Act, has said publicly on record there would not be a Magnitsky Act
without Boris Nemtsov. He was the strongest and the most prominent
political opponent that Vladimir Putin and his regime had, and they were afraid of him. MICHAEL KIRK – And his murder was a message,
sent a message? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – It’s not so much
a message; it’s just depriving the opposition of its strongest, most prominent and most
effective leader. It’s depriving Russia of, I think, the best
president we could have had. Of course, Boris Nemtsov had plans to run
in the presidential election in 2018. He was elected in 2013 as a lawmaker in Yaroslavl. He was planning to run for the national parliament
in Russia for the State Duma in 2016. Even with all the fraud and the rigging, just
because of who he was and how he would communicate with people and how he would work with people,
he had a good chance of actually winning. Now, as I’m speaking with you, he could have
been back in the national parliament of Russia, and that would have given him a completely
different status. Because you asked me this question, I’m trying
to answer it the best I can, but I find it really difficult to actually talk about this
in political-analysis terms. This is personal for me. Boris Nemtsov was my closest friend. He’s godfather to my younger daughter; that’s
family in Russia. I know that for so many people, this is personal. And we’re not going to forget, by the way. I have no doubt that one day, those people
who are behind his assassination, not just the perpetrators who have just been sentenced
to prison but also the organizers and the masterminds, those who organized and ordered
this, that these people will face justice according to the Russian law. They will be held responsible under the law;
I have no doubt about this. MICHAEL KIRK – And what happened to you? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – If you read my official
discharge papers from Moscow Hospital, it was “toxic action by an unidentified substance.” That’s the official diagnosis. Translated from medical into human language:
poisoning. They don’t know with what; they’re not sure
how this was done. But the only thing we know is that twice in
two years, the first in May of 2015 and the second time in February of 2017, I fell suddenly
and violently ill, both times in Moscow, both times falling into a coma with multiple organ
failure and with a 5 percent chance to survive. This is what doctors told my wife, both in
2015 and 2017. It’s only by the grace of God and by the
work of the good doctors in Moscow that I’m sitting here and speaking with you today. I’m certainly very grateful and certainly
very fortunate. I have no doubt that this was an attempt to
kill. If it’s a 5 percent chance to survive, that’s
not how you send a message; that’s how you try to kill someone. I have no doubt that this was a response to
my political activities in Russian opposition, I think most specifically in response to my
work on the Magnitsky Act and the support and the participation in this process of the
imposition of individual targeted Western sanctions against human rights abusers in
the Putin regime. I’ve been involved in this process together
with Boris Nemtsov and now without him for many years now, and I will continue to do
this, by the way, because I think this is very important. This is, as we discussed before, this was
one of only two things that really worry Vladimir Putin’s regime. MICHAEL KIRK – … How is it viewed in Russia
now? What did he win out of his being involved
in the U.S. elections? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – … The goal of the
meetings the Kremlin proxies tried to set up with Trump campaign officials was to undermine
and overturn the Magnitsky Act. This is an overriding priority for them. It’s also mind-boggling in a way. If you think about that the unofficial foreign
policy priority of the Russian state and an official task of diplomats in the foreign
service, is to overturn personal sanctions against crooks and human rights abusers. This is actually insulting for Russian diplomats
and for Russian foreign service, that they’ve been put in the service of the crooks and
human rights abusers trying to gain their personal privileges back. But this is what Putin has been doing. I think if we ask what the goal was of his
presumed interference in the U.S. electoral process, it’s to try to get the Magnitsky
Law overturned, repealed or at least not implemented properly. Including for those people who are concerned
about all of this from the U.S. political standpoint, I think it’s crucial to watch
how the Magnitsky Act continues to be implemented. The current secretary of state, Rex Tillerson,
during his Senate confirmation hearings in January of 2017 was asked publicly, on the
record, whether the administration will continue to enforce the Magnitsky Act and put out new
names in a sanctions list. He publicly said yes, the administration will
continue to enforce Magnitsky Act and add new names. Let us see how this act is enforced and how
the new names are added. So far, there’s not been a single new name
added under the Magnitsky Act. This, by the way, is nothing new, either,
because the Obama administration has been very timid in implementing this law. They were against it in the first place; they
didn’t want it to happen. When it did happen, when it was passed with
huge, overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress—not something that
happens very often in this town, as I understand—once this became law they had to implement it,
but they were really timid about it. For the first four years, they were putting
just some really low-level people … until their last two weeks in office. In its last two weeks, the Obama administration
added the most high-profile person so far to this list, the top law enforcement official
in Putin’s regime, Gen. Alexander Bastrykin, head of the investigative committee of the
Russian Federation, Putin’s old university friend, the man who is responsible for all
the politically motivated prosecutions in recent years in Russia against opposition
activists and leaders; the man who once personally took an independent journalist to a forest
outside of Moscow—this is a top-line enforcement official in [the] Putin regime, a general,
personally drove a journalist to a forest and threatened to kill him if his newspaper
continued with the investigations. And [he] attempted a joke saying, “Ha, ha,
by the way, I’ll be the one in charge of the investigation of your murder, so don’t worry
about this.” And this is not disputed, by the way. This is not alleged or supposed; he admitted
this. He also said he was sorry afterward, but I
don’t think that’s, frankly, enough. This guy was put on the Magnitsky list in
January of 2017. But for years before that, the Obama administration
had been very timid about implementing it. This administration so far has not added a
single new name to the Magnitsky list. Let’s see how it continues to be implemented. I think this is going to be the key criterion
to judge all of these things on. Your question of what did Putin get out of
trying to do what he did? Well, if the Magnitsky Act stops working,
then Putin will have got what he wanted. JIM GILMORE – And Putin’s view of Trump? How do you think he views Trump through the
campaign and now that he’s president? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – I think for Putin,
it’s not about people and personalities. It’s about how he can use circumstances
and situations to his own benefit and for his own ends. I don’t think it’s anything personal for
him. His goal was to create, I think, circumstances
and the situation politically in the U.S. where he would be able to advance his own
goals and his regime’s goals. Chief among that is to undermine and get rid
of the Magnitsky Act. I don’t think it’s necessarily a personal
thing, that he wanted to help a particular person or he wanted to prevent a particular
person. He’s very cynical about this. As they say in movies about mafia, nothing
personal, strictly business. I think that’s his attitude. DAVID HOFFMAN – … Isn’t it possible he was
motivated by a belief that America’s democracy is manipulated just like he manipulates Russian
democracy; that everybody does it; that all television is ordered from the top; that all
journalism is and so on? I mean, isn’t it possible he wanted to create
kind of a parallel universe and just create chaos in America? VLADIMIR V. KARA-MURZA – … If you look and
analyze what Putin’s propaganda has been doing, I think they’ve long stopped pretending
that this regime is so good and great and beneficial for the Russian people. Their message is that, first of all, all the
others are even worse; and secondly, that everybody does it across the world, too, and
that there’s no such thing as real democracy. There’s no such thing as genuine media freedom. There’s no such thing as real elections, and
everywhere is manipulated. If it were possible to create doubts and to
create chaos with the political system of a major Western democratic country like the
U.S., I think that will certainly serve the propaganda goals of Vladimir Putin’s regime. This may indeed be another aspect of this. If you look at the coverage in Kremlin-controlled
media of elections, not just the U.S. election of 2016 but also other elections—the recent
French election, the upcoming elections in Germany—that has been the message; that
yeah, everywhere is like this. Everywhere there’s administrative resource;
everywhere there’s no real media freedom; and everywhere the elections are manipulated
and controlled and achieve the result of the current whoever’s in government wants. I’m stating the completely obvious here, but
needless to say, that flies in the face of the facts just beginning with the simple fact
that so many people who have been in power have actually lost elections in Western countries. This has never yet happened in Russia. Just think about this. Throughout the whole of the history of Russia,
there has never been a ruler who has lost an election, at least lost an election to
an extent that he then lost power. Boris Yeltsin, when he was president, he lost
a lot of parliamentary elections, so he had actually an opposition majority in parliament
for the duration of his presidency. The parliament was a real thing in Yeltsin’s
Russia, unlike today. But he still stayed in power. There was not a single election in Russian
history when the ruler, the incumbent, lost power as the result of an election. Just think about this. MICHAEL KIRK – Good. Thank you very much.

91 thoughts on “The Putin Files: Vladimir Kara-Murza

  • This guy is a BEAST no fear and indestructible apparently, he's survived radioactive poisoning 3 times !!

  • There is a question as to how MK got his money. If the public believes that he got his money in an unfair way it will affect their perception of whatever he or his supports say. Secondly, I don't like the idea of TV channels being owned by Oligarchs as they will inevitably pursue their own interests. There are many examples which suggest that this is not a good idea. The challenge that the speaker has is that it's easy for his opponents to play his comments to the Russian public about how he is badmouthing the country and be branded a traitor. The Chinese have shown that lack of democracy is not a barrier to economic progress. The battle is between stability v democracy ( if chaotic). Our democracy was not built overnight.

  • It's hard when Yeltsin is used as a good example post mounting the tank. He did get tanks to fire at the parliament building. We must not simply pick facts that suit only our narrative.

  • Very articulate and clear…would love to read a book by this guy.  Interviewer, however, can't even get his grammar right: "So if Obama would've…". Sad…loser!

  • It's too bad Kara-murza could not carry Nemsov's torch politically in Russia. He has the dignity of the Russian intellectuals of old but is infused with a modern twist of hope. These attributes might have served him well in a bid for office.

  • gilding lillies; we know enough. 2 selfish, tiny's spin AMERICA into totalitarianism. putin-trump-republican's=senior bush & 911bush = bubble's to BANKRUPT USA = COLLAPSE, AS RUSSIA DID. trump said he would like to bankrupt america, negotiate from debt, "i'm very good at that." arrogant smirk

  • Trump wants to be Putin stay President forever, fill posts of federal judges with yes men….Fuck You Trump. You crooked conman.


  • History does not spell out for us that a friendly relationship with a corrupt authoritarian regime (based on short term, cynical deals) is a bad strategy for Democratic states….In the case of Russia this seems obvious but in the case of Saudi Arabia, the disadvantages still have to come to light.

  • Americans watching this eloquent yet glib man will get a very wrong impression of him. He has some very odd and unrealistic beliefs about Russia and falsifies some recent history (not about Putin about whom he is right, but about Nemtsov, the 90's and liberals). Some people interviewed for this are good, honest opposition people and some less so (and some clownish people like American officials).

  • How sad that only about one hundred people have liked this! Lack of education is how, we in America, have brought the scourge of the Orange Traitor Tot to world power.

  • This man is a hero. Vladimir Kara-Murza is a man who must be protected and make sure that he continues Boris Nemtsov’s legacy, to ensure that Vladimir Putin, the deadliest enemy of the free and democratic world, is defeated and suffers the dire consequence of the damage he’s done! Why don’t we add Trump and his GOP cronies to the Magnitsky Act.

  • Execellent, great approach to the subject, I love the thoroughness of it, you should do this with other topics too, I suggest China; Xi Jinping and the CCP.

  • Wow! Best interview in the series! All of these interviews are fascinating, but this one provides the most cogent and insightful perspective on Putin. And to think that tyrant is the idol of our so-called president. OMG. No wonder Trump finds the Chinese leader's move to become president for life so appealing. Everyone should be on alert to the aspirations of our dictator-wannabe who consistently demonstrates that he is equally self-serving and sees just as little value to human rights, freedom of the press and the rule of law as the awful autocrats that he so admires.

  • He have FSB death sentence in Putin Russia. 🙁

    Most sad is that so many uneducated idiots in Europe openly support Putler USSR2 criminal reality. We can see mainly in EAST EUROPE open tries to step by step implement similar criminal rules and change democracy freedom basics. 🙁

  • "Steal in Russia and spend in the West" this is the best description of United Russia Party. Patriots who send their family members to London, Monaco, Miami etc …

  • Horrible lying shit. He wants to hand Russia over to the damn Yanks and see it swallowed. an Anti-patriot. God damn him.

  • The more episodes of "The Putin Files" that I view, the deeper my shame for my inexcusable ignorance of the recent developments in Russia, for my shallow, condescending and uncharitable perception of her people as a delusional flock of nationalists, dutifully spouting official justifications for Putin's imperialist aggression, united in a longing to retake their rightful place on the world stage, to demand the respect once accorded the USSR, albeit a respect primarily based on it's nuclear capability. This view did not consider any significant exceptions, How can I judge Russian public support for Putin's military aggression in neighboring republic's, annexing territory in The Ukraine, supporting the Syrian despot etc.? Not ONLY does state control of all mass media and violent suppression of dissent STRONGLY influence public opinion, it ALSO effectively removes from the sight of outside observers, whatever significant domestic opposing views DO manage to persist – despite overwhelming constraints. But in comparison, how can I explain my more forgiving and nuanced view a demonstrably ill-informed American public's support for a patently unjustified war in Iraq, especially when the cataclysmic horrors consequent to OUR effectively unchallenged expression of jingoism is so much LESS excusable, given OUR nation's much-vaunted free speech and independent press? And I am further shamed to have harshly judged the terror-stricken Russian public for so readily surrendering to Putin so many of their only briefly-held rights and freedoms, at a time when their young, still-developing republic faced great economic and political uncertainty. But again, by comparison, with far LESS justification, I was somehow far MORE forgiving of the AMERICAN public for the absence of significant public outcry when – in clear violation of the single most important duty Bush, abetted by Congress, so quickly and effortlessly hacked away at the very fundamental rights and freedoms they had all sworn to defend. So it seems the more I learn, the GREATER my respect for the Russian people and the LESSER my willingness to gloss over our own shortcomings. Just pause for a moment to consider the COURAGE of Kara-Murza continuing to publicly defy the State that has already attempted to silence him and succeeded in assassinating his best friend and colleague. Now compare that to our SPINELESS representatives who remain silent in the face of Trump's outrageous and unwarranted attacks on vital national institutions, TERRIFIED to publicly criticize the President for fear that retaliatory tweets will mobilize Trump's base against him in the upcoming Primaries. Pathetic, or as OUR version of Putin might tweet – "SAD!"

  • Amazing that such a person exists in the world. So courageous. I would just stay home and eat more cake to forget. Where do people get the courage?

    And what an amazing voice!


  • 58:00 He should've also mentioned that Obama added to the list , in addition to Bastrykin, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who were the prime suspects in poisoning Alexander Litvinenko to death with polonium-210.

  • cut that crap:the zionist "entourage" of Yeltsin robbed 3 generations of hard-work of the soviet people:just figure out the jewish billionaires that flourished like venenous mushrooms in the pouring rain of Tel Aviv dollars just in a short span of time:they bought any tradable item for a fraction of a single penny.the Yeltsin era will be remembered as the most barbaric hold-up of human History.


  • Kara-Murza is a great and brave man. That said, this is pure propaganda aimed at those well-meaning souls who, knowing next to nothing of life in Russia, today, are swayed by a one-sided presentation, such as this, to believe in another phantom bogie-man – Russia. All hail the carefully manipulated demonization of everyone in the world.

  • The tragic irony is that during the same time, the US experienced a rigged election and corrupt supreme court giving us Bush and Iraq war and torture and many other human rights abuses. Perhaps if Gore was elected, the US would have been in a stronger position to hold Putin accountable. Unfortunately, the US has failed to uphold its own democracy.

  • Think Obama at that time was still trying to get Russia to go along with The Iran deal so it’s understandable why he’d be tentative to implement it b4 the ink was dry on the Iran Deal

  • Yes under Boris you had this and that all demicratic nonsense but you lost your country! And p
    Putin who you and your fellow american friends are trying to demonize so desperately is the one who brought it back! Live with it Vladimir Kara, stop crying and wobbling with your polished american English!

  • Putin has been good for Russia, a complex and difficult country to keep running. With being the largest country on earth with 11 time zones. This man is Putin‘s rival and as such I expect him to Portrait Putin as incompetent, lucky, and a dictator. Truth is, his style and competence was very much needed and still is. Putin has been good for Russia, like him or not, agree with him or not.

  • Only 29K views, but put a squirrel on a skateboard wearing a Victorian stove pipe hat, 8 million views. Tragic.

  • I think when your born and raised in a country you have a totally different perspective on that country. I think that every administration should have an advisor or someone who was born and raised in that country on their staff.

  • 46:46 to 55:22 these are very inspiring stories and examples of courage and bravery, regardless of the life-and-death risks that come with the fight for future of freedom and democracy, a fight worth fighting for. EVERYONE can learn from this.

  • 39:14 Putin was selected to protect the Russian oligarchy, by silencing internal dissent to make a rulers life more tolerable, shutting down opposition to money~begotten from empire~is retained in the embodiment of her majesty Elizabeth. Could be a day with the Queen is more like that place in Tennessee where they built an actual ark for all those animals Noah managed to get onto to his wee boat. Point is the Russian democracy clearly has not developed enough to throw off the yolk of an infernal ruler like my country. Democracy is a wonderful thing that needs nurturing like any other living thing.

  • I deeply admire Mr. Kara-Murza and appreciate this interview. I can't help noticing that he has some breathing issues. I hope this is not something permanent related perhaps to his poisonings.

  • The era of stagnation continues on while putin is in power. He thinks the cold war was never lost by Russia. The Russian people need to end the Soviet era of stagnation.

  • Such great series. I keep listening to it every night before falling asleep. I could contribute an extra interviewer microphone however, before you complete it. The package would arrive from Warsaw.

  • I was going to see the evil nun movie but after seeing that costume I got scared sometimes a scary movie won't bother me and I seen the trailer of the movie and it didn't bother me but something about that costume did I get scared like that it's like a sudden scared that stays for awhile longer than normal

  • Vladimir Kara Murza you are a western globalist, jewish zionist whore, a disgrace and a traitor to your country

  • I am an academic who follows all this history of 2oth century Russia. What this man says is 100 percent accurate. I have experienced the Soviet world in 1980 in Poland. Unfortunately, a country I love very much, as well as America, is back to the Soviet way of acting against opposition. He is correct completely about the Magnitsky Act. The meeting in Trump tower was about that and not dirt on Hillary Clinton.

  • Watching this after Trump just lifted targeted personal sanctions and thereby easing Putin’s fear. It’s too brazen.

  • So Trump's dismissal of that meeting with the plea "Just some idiot wanting to talk about Russian orphans – no there there" But it was nothing but lies wrapped up in a half truth. A deception

    Lying to Congress.

    It WAS indeed about waving sanctions and they all knew it. Conspiracy there yes there there !!

  • I am a proud former high-school classmate of Vladimir Kara-Murza’s (class of 2000; somewhere in northwest London), and I recall distinctly he was then already an expert in Russian politics, history, and literature, in addition to being an incredibly effective speaker. His deep love for Russia was palpable. I also remember chatting casually with him about Putin's inauguration, though unlike him I failed to grasp the significance of the event. A few years ago I learnt by chance that he had narrowly escaped death twice for his political activities.There's no doubt in my mind that, if there's one man who can free Russia from the shackles of totalitarianism, it's Vladimir Kara-Murza — or Vlad, as we used to call him.

  • Can you imagine what this guy could do for Russia as president? It sure would be amazing to witness.

  • Remember the Russian submarine Kursk that was in Agust 2000 ? A tragedy on
    Putins watch … never a mention, was it an harbinger of things still to come.. ?

  • Well finally America and USSR (because that is what Russia still is) are equal : both have a freakin' psycho who rules the country!

  • Anybody who can assess the Yeltsin era in positive terms reveals a very limited intellect. I'm being kind – many would question his sanity.

  • All i wana know is… who cuts this guys hair.. im guessing its the brothers cuzins aunt of the guy that does trumps..🤔😈😂😂👌

  • Traitor piece of shit tofff on ur coward fake traitor now u burning in hell coward piece of shit talking about ur own people coward traitor..of course in Russia traitor like u have no place because real Russian never talk shit behind their own people it's only traitor cowards do talk bad behind their own people

  • A brave man who stood his ground in the face of a powerful coward. The future will see Putin as the vicious, greedy, frightened little man he is, while Vladimir Kara-Murza is a hero of human dignity forever.

  • Wikipedia:
    "Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Кара́-Мурза́, born 7 September 1981) is a Russian opposition politician. He serves as vice chairman of Open Russia, a NGO founded by Russian businessman and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which promotes civil society and democracy in Russia. He was elected to the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition in 2012, and served as deputy leader of the People's Freedom Party from 2015 to 2016. He is the author of two documentaries, They Chose Freedom and Nemtsov. Kara-Murza holds an M.A. in history from Cambridge University. He currently acts as Senior Fellow to the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. He was awarded the Civil Courage Prize in 2018."
    Seriously ??? Vice-chair of an NGO by former oligarch (since when is that an honorary title?) Mikhail Khodorkovsky ?? That's your knight in shining armour ? 'Human rights' and all? Cambridge? … thanks but no thanks.

    By the way, NOTHING this guy says during the first ELEVEN MINUTES (!!!) is an argument !

    Last but not least – I'm just a private person on the net with time on his hands, not russian, not affiliated to anything or anyone, not a paid troll (no troll at all in fact!), so don't even start to go there.

  • Given his history, his strength of spirit and his dedication, this is a man who should be looked to – and my personal fear is that his remarks on domestic oppression / foreign aggression will prove to be prophetic, to our collective detriment.

    (Left field sidebar – I understand that no Western leader wants to provoke an already paranoid and egocentric maniac, but if it does come to armed conflict, you need to keep in mind that USA has the biggest, technologically advanced and heavily armed Navy on the planet – Russia ? Let's just say that if you put down all the pieces from your Battleship game on your kitchen table, throw a few away – now you're looking at Russia's 'navy' – the board game pieces are better equipped.)

  • "they want to steal in Russia and spend in the West" exactly what they are doing!! He hit the nail on the head. Well said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *