Putin’s human rights record is even worse than Leonid Brezhnev’s: former Soviet prisoner

Putin’s human rights record is even worse than Leonid Brezhnev’s: former Soviet prisoner
Image via Creative Commons.

Natan Sharansky, now 75, was not sorry to see the Soviet Union fall apart in the early 1990s. Sharansky had been a political prisoner during the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s before being released by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 and moving to Israel, where he went on to hold various positions in the government (including deputy prime minister).

During his years in prison, Sharansky became a symbol of the repression of Soviet Jews. But more recently, he has been a vehement critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on May 8, Sharansky emphasizes that Putin's record on human rights recalls the abuses of the Soviet Union.

READ MORE: 'So much crap piled up': Why Vladimir Putin may be in over his head

"Consider the cases of Putin's most prominent domestic critics, Vladimir Kara-Murza and Alexei Navalny," Sharansky argues. "Kara-Murza's only transgression was to work tirelessly, including as a Post Opinions contributor, defending Russia's nascent democratic institutions and speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For this, Kara-Murza was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison, one of the first such lengthy sentence for a political 'crime' since the time of Joseph Stalin."

Sharansky continues, "Navalny, meanwhile, was jailed repeatedly for his work exposing corruption at the highest levels of Russian society. Since his most recent imprisonment a year and a half ago, his sentence has been repeatedly extended on invented charges."

The former Soviet prisoner notes that Putin has crossed a line that even the Soviet communists of the 1970s wouldn't cross: poisoning political rivals.

"Both Kara-Murza and Navalny have been subjected to an unconventional weapon favored by Putin, one worse than any experienced by dissidents in Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s time: poison," Sharansky laments. "Kara-Murza was poisoned twice."

READ MORE: Vladimir Putin investigated millions of civil servants to test their 'loyalty' and weed out 'threats': report

Sharansky adds, however, that Kara-Murza and Navalny are "convinced that the Russian people long to be free and that freedom is within their reach."

"In letters sent from their captivity," he observes, "both betray a remarkable optimism about their country's future. Both have said, in one way or another, that Putin's regime will not outlive their own prison sentences."

READ MORE: 'Always scared': Adam Kinzinger shreds Donald Trump for treating Vladimir Putin like 'some kind of victim'

Read Natan Sharansky's full op-edat this link(subscription required).

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