Activist: Number Of Political Prisoners In Russia Twice What It Was In U.S.S.R.

A prominent Russian opposition activist says the number of political prisoners in Russia is twice what it was in the Soviet Union in 1976.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a historian and democracy activist, told the United Nations Human Rights Council in New York on July 9 that the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center estimated that there are currently 297 political prisoners in Russia.

Kara-Murza, deputy chairman of the Open Russia Foundation, compared that figure with one made public in 1976 by Soviet human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov, who cited the names of 126 jailed Soviet citizens who had been recognized as prisoners of conscience.

Kara-Murza said that over the last four years, the number of political prisoners in Russia had grown sixfold.

He highlighted several cases, including that of prominent Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who protested Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and is serving a 20-year prison term.

Kara-Murza urged the UN Human Rights Council to focus on the plight of political prisoners in Russia and speak out on their behalf.