(Moscow) A Moscow court began trying Monday behind closed doors opponent Vladimir Kara-Mourza, who faces up to 25 years in prison, including for high treason, the latest example of the accelerated repression of Kremlin critics.

Russian authorities have stepped up prosecutions against critics of Vladimir Putin since he launched his offensive against Ukraine, and the case of Mr. Kara-Murza, 41, is one of the most emblematic.

In the same case, he faces three serious charges: “high treason”, spreading “false information” about the Russian military, and illegal work for an “undesirable” organization.

One of his lawyers, Vadim Prokhorov, told AFP that the opponent risked up to 25 years in prison for these three cumulative charges.

“We have returned to Stalinist times. We are back to huge Stalinist sentences,” Prokhorov said after Monday’s closed hearing.

And “the authorities want to sort this out at cosmic speed,” he added, indicating that the next hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, in pretrial detention since April 2022, is a longtime opponent of Vladimir Putin. He nearly died after being, he says, poisoned twice, in 2015 and 2017, from assassination attempts he attributes to the Russian regime.

Last spring, he was indicted for spreading “false information” about the military after his March 2022 appearance before US lawmakers in Arizona, in which he criticized the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

Then, in August 2022, he was charged with working with an “undesirable organization”, a crime punishable by prison, for organizing a conference in support of political prisoners in Russia.

Finally, in October, the authorities opened a third case against him for “high treason”, the most serious of the charges, for having criticized the authorities in public interventions abroad, his lawyer told AFP. Russian state news agency Tass.

“As a true patriot of Russia, he is charged with high treason for his tireless fight for a Russia without Putin,” his wife, Evgenia, wrote on Twitter on Monday.

“I am always a heartbeat away from you, my love, and I will continue to fight for and with you as long as it takes,” she added.

Russian by birth, Mr Kara-Mourza also has British citizenship, having moved to the UK with his mother when he was 15.

As an adult, he became close to the Russian opposition, in particular Boris Nemtsov – shot dead a stone’s throw from the Kremlin in 2015 – and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a wealthy businessman who spent a decade in prison for his opposition. to Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with AFP in 2021, he assured that he had no intention of leaving Russia, despite the risks.

“We are Russian politicians, our place is in Russia,” he said then. He felt that “the greatest gift” that Vladimir Putin’s opponents could give him was “to give up and run”.

Most of the Kremlin master’s detractors are now in prison or in exile.

Alexei Navalny is serving a nine-year prison sentence for fraud, a case widely seen as political. He was arrested in January 2021 on his return to Russia, after convalescing in Germany following poisoning in Siberia of which he accuses the Kremlin.

Another opposition figure, Ilia Yashin, is serving an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence after being convicted in December for his criticism of the offensive against Ukraine.