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Russian politician poisoned by Putin remembers late Arizona Senator John McCain

Posted at 4:42 AM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 08:17:09-04

PHOENIX — The images coming out of Ukraine show what happens when anyone is in the direct line of Vladimir Putin's fury.

The country has been under attack for weeks with no regard for anyone - not even children.

One man has also been in Putin's direct line of fire for years. He is Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian politician from Moscow who Putin has tried to kill — twice.

“We know that the Russian government operates death squads, special units within the FSB, the federal security service whose task it is to physically liquidate, that is to kill political opponents of the Putin regime,” said Kara-Murza. “They usually do this by poison.”

Kara-Murza has been one of those targets and each time was given only a 5% chance of survival.

Still, during our 40-minute interview, Kara-Murza doesn't hold back his disdain for the Putin regime and he's still just as vocal about his thoughts when he's in Russia, where this interview and story you're watching wouldn’t allow.

But, his brush with death and the constant threat has never stopped him. In fact, it's only pushed him to speak even louder and gain allies. One of those was the late Arizona Senator John McCain. The two were so close, McCain asked Kara-Murza to be a pallbearer at his funeral.

“Senator McCain was one of the very few political leaders in the west who saw through Putin from the very beginning,” said Kara-Murza. "And he was often criticized for that, he was often even laughed at for that, for those things that he was saying about Putin all those years ago. I don't think people are laughing now.”

Kara-Murza says McCain played a crucial role in passing the Magnitsky Act in 2012 which allowed the United States to freeze the assets and withhold visas of anyone in Russia who violated human rights — similar to the recent sanctions. However, Kara-Murza says the U.S. never enforced the law to its fullest extent.

We also asked Kara-Murza about Valley WNBA star, Britney Griner, who's being held in a Russian jail for allegedly having cannabis vape cartridges.

She's facing prison time but not a lot has been said about where or how she's doing. Kara-Murza isn't familiar with Griner's case but says the best thing to do, in general, is not be silent.

“The best protection and the best defense for people who are being incarcerated by authoritarian regimes is international attention,” said Kara-Murza.

After this interview, Kara-Murza is going back to Russia — it's his home and where he says he belongs.

“I hope at least now when cluster bombs are falling on residential areas in the middle of Europe, people will realize that the only solution to this is to have Vladimir Putin out of power,” he added.

Kara-Murza was in the Valley as part of speaking series hosted by the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations. For more information on the organization and future speakers, click on their website.