Russia Embassy in New Zealand rebukes Nanaia Mahuta for showing solidarity with Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza

Russia has shown sharp disapproval for Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta after she showed solidarity with a Kremlin critic who was handed a 25-year-long jail sentence.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, 41, spoke out against Russian President Vladimir Putin for years and successfully lobbied Western governments to impose sanctions on Russia and individual Russians for purported human rights violations.

State prosecutors, who had requested a 25-year term, had accused him of treason, among other offences, and of discrediting the Russian military after spreading "knowingly false information" about its conduct in what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

His sentence was the harshest handed down to a Kremlin critic since Putin came to power in 1999.

In a CNN interview broadcast hours before his arrest, Kara-Murza, whose family home is in Washington and who had returned to Moscow to campaign against the war, alleged that Russia was run by a "regime of murderers".

He had also used speeches in the United States and Europe to accuse Russia of bombing civilians in Ukraine, a charge Moscow has rejected.

After he was handed his jail sentence by a Moscow court on Monday (local time), Mahuta tweeted: "Aotearoa New Zealand stands in solidarity with opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been unjustly sentenced to 25 years for advocating an end to Russia's war in Ukraine."

In response, Russian Ambassador to New Zealand Georgii Zuev tweeted back and called such statements "unacceptable".

"Such statements can be qualified as an attempt to exert pressure on the Russian justice system and interfere in Russia's internal affairs," he wrote "We consider them unacceptable."

Mahuta joins similar condemnation from other Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

"Vladimir Kara-Murza bravely denounced Russia's invasion of Ukraine for what it was – a blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter," British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.

"Russia's lack of commitment to protecting fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, is alarming."

US ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy said Kara-Murza's conviction was an attempt to silence dissent.

"Criminalisation of criticism of government action is a sign of weakness, not strength."

Vladimir Kara-Murza.
Vladimir Kara-Murza. Photo credit: Reuters

Kara-Murza's wife Evgenia was defiant about his sentence.

"They are so afraid of him, and they hate him so much that they want to lock him up for a quarter of a century," she said.

But his health has been deteriorating while in custody and she doesn't expect him to survive his sentence.

"This is absolutely nightmarish, what we are going through as a family, but it is also absolutely nightmarish what we're going through as a country."

Last month, a Russian court convicted a father after his daughter drew an anti-war picture at school. He was sentenced to two years in a penal colony on charges of discrediting the armed forces.

Then earlier this month, Russian Federal Security Service Investigators formally charged Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich with carrying out espionage in the interests of the United States.

Reuters / Newshub.