Jeremy Corbyn: ‘Boris Kagarlitsky, Russian anti-war activists deserve our support’

April 24, 2024
Boris Kagarlitsky behind bars
Boris Kagarlitsky faces five years' prison on trumped up charges. Inset: Jeremy Corbyn

Former radical left British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn drew attention to the case of jailed socialist dissident Boris Kagarlitsky and argued Russian anti-war political prisoners “deserve our recognition and our support”, when he addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 17.

Now an independent MP, Corbyn also spoke out in defence of jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as well as former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and British-Palestinian surgeon Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who were recently targeted by the German government for their pro-Palestine views.

“We have to stand up for the right of people in all societies to dissent from what their governments are doing,” Corbyn said.

In his speech, Corbyn noted how during times of war “the liberties of people in all countries are put at risk”. This is particularly true for anti-war activists in Russia.

According to the independent human rights group OVD-Info, almost 20,000 Russians have been detained due to anti-war activities since Russia’s full-scale invasion started in February 2022.

Almost 1000 have been put on trial, mainly on charges relating to catch-all Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code, which deals with terrorism.

Kagarlitsky was arrested in July on trumped-up charges of “justifying terrorism”. While initially handed a fine at his first trial in December, his sentence was changed after the prosecution appealed.

Speaking about Kagarlitsky, Corbyn said: “Boris Kagarlitsky is almost unique in the sense that he's been arrested and imprisoned on three separate occasions.

“Once during the period of the Soviet Union when he was arrested and imprisoned for being an anti-Soviet activist.

“Secondly, when he was arrested and imprisoned when Boris Yeltsin was prime minister, because he opposed the economic chaos that happened at the time of the end of the Soviet Union.

“And thirdly, he was arrested and imprisoned very recently, in 2023, because of his opposition to the war in Ukraine.

Kagarlitsky is now facing five years behind bars — meaning he would be 70 before he is free again.

Amnesty International has described the verdict as “a blatant abuse of vague anti-terrorism legislation, weaponised to suppress dissent and punish a government critic.”

Corbyn said Amnesty is “absolutely right on that”, adding: “He and hundreds of others [in Russia] who stood up against the war in Ukraine … deserve our recognition and deserve our support.”

Family members, supporters and activists from Russia and around the world have established the Boris Kagarlitsky International Solidarity Campaign to campaign for his release.

To date, the campaign has collected more than 14,000 signatures from 94 countries on a global petition that has been translated into 20 languages. Corbyn was among the initial signatories to the petition.

Corbyn also used his speech to draw attention to the silence of dissent elsewhere.

“In my own country, Julian Assange has now had five years in a maximum security prison, who is convicted of nothing in Britain that would merit that kind of prison sentence. His crime is telling the truth to the rest of the world.”

Corbyn spoke in support of former Varoufakis and Abu-Sittah who “are critical of the war in Gaza [and] were prevented from speaking in Germany”.

Concluding his speech, Corbyn said: “We have to stand up equally and powerfully for human rights and the freedom of speech wherever it takes us, however uncomfortable those arguments sometimes are.”

[Sign the petition in support of Kagarlitsky and Russian anti-war prisoners at or]

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