Western sanctions have left no food on Russia's shelves, anti-Putin dissident reveals

29 March 2022, 19:15

Mr Kara-Murza has survived two poisoning attempts in his opposition to Putin
Mr Kara-Murza has survived two poisoning attempts in his opposition to Putin. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Will Taylor

A leading figure in the Russian opposition to Vladimir Putin has said Western sanctions have emptied food shelves and will cause the economy to suffer.

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Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has survived two poisoning attempts during his activism, told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr the repercussions for Putin's invasion of Ukraine has been "powerful" and "swift".

But he is worried that, having seen the way some Western nations have dealt with the Russian regime in the past, some may still have an appetite to "appease" the Kremlin.

And had the West taken actions he called for in the past, Mr Kara-Murza believes the bloodshed in Ukraine could have been avoided.

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Speaking about the sanctions, he said: "The effect has been swift, and the effect has been powerful, I can tell you the last time I saw empty food shelves in shops in Moscow was as a child in the Soviet Union.

"I saw them again for the first time in the beginning of March. So you can see this very vividly and, and the Russian economy is going to suffer greatly because of this."

Sanctions on oligarchs should have been imposed a decade ago

Mr Kara-Murza survived two poisoning attempts that he and reporters say was carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB – the successor to the notorious KGB.

He was in a work meeting in Moscow in May 2015 when he began to feel sick suddenly before he lost consciousness.

He fell into a coma and was put on life support and it was revealed he had been poisoned. He believes he was lucky to survive.

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A second attempt was made in February 2017, he said. He views there as being a "death squad" in the FSB responsible for "liquidating" Putin’s opponents.

Mr Kara-Murza, who campaigned for targeted "Magnitsky" sanctions, named after the Russian tax adviser who exposed Russian government corruption, said that if those kinds of measures had been imposed on selected targets then the war in Ukraine might have been averted.

"What's really frustrating, and that's the mildest I can put it is the knowledge that had these targeted sanctions that we were calling for being imposed on Putin's core circle a decade ago, we would not be in a situation we are now in.

No limit to Putin's aggression if appeasement continues

"Many people would have stayed alive and we would not have faced a large war in the middle of Europe."

He added: "The best way to increase the risks of what he can do is to continue appeasing him, because we know how the appeasement of dictators ends.

"This already led it, this two decades of Western appeasement of Putin, already led us to a war in the middle of Europe. If Western leaders continue with this appeasement, there's no limit to what this can take us."

Hopes were raised over a possible peace deal in Ukraine after Russia said it would be willing to wind down its attacks on the capital Kyiv.

But Mr Kara-Murza warned that he believes Putin is a "serial liar" and "not a single word coming out the mouth of Vladimir Putin can or should be trusted".

Despite Putin’s tightening grip on power – what may be thousands of Russians who protested against the war have been arrested and the media has been censored over the invasion– Mr Kara-Murza is sure democracy will return to his country.

"I'm a historian by education. And every time there has been major political change in Russia, no one has ever predicted it. And both the Romanov Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, and the Soviet regime at the end of the 20th century, collapsed in three days," he said.