My husband, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was detained in Russia two years ago on April 11. He is a Russian politician, historian, journalist, writer, and filmmaker. In normal circumstances, he would run for a seat in the Russian Parliament so that he could use his knowledge and expertise to improve the life of the Russian people. Under Vladimir Putin, however, my husband, the loving father of three children, had to become a fierce warrior for human rights because his integrity did not allow him to stay silent in the face of the many atrocities committed by the Russian government over the past 2 ½ decades that Putin has been in power.

Despite harassment by Russian state media and two assassination attempts perpetrated by a team of operatives of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) , Vladimir refused to give in to intimidation and kept pushing forward. To my mind, he has become the embodiment of the courage that the great American statesman and U.S. Senator John McCain described as “not the absence of fear but our capacity to act despite our fears.”

Back in 2010, together with his friend, mentor, and Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir joined a campaign by U.K.-based American businessman Bill Browder to persuade members of the U.S. Congress to introduce and adopt legislation  that would sanction human rights abusers. The campaign was born out of the determination to find justice for Browder’s Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who had exposed Russian government corruption but was himself jailed in a Moscow prison, where he died in 2009 after being severely beaten and then denied medical treatment. The resulting legislation passed in 2012 as the Magnitsky Act and later was extended beyond Russians to human rights violators worldwide in the Global Magnitsky Act, providing a powerful and revolutionary tool to bring them to accountability around the globe.

The Russian regime fully realized the revolutionary nature of the legislation that was being created and would be used against it. It also realized that those involved in the advocacy for the adoption of the Magnitsky Act would not be scared into silence. These people were seen as a direct, existential threat to the regime.

In February 2015, Boris Nemtsov was assassinated on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge outside the Kremlin. Three months later, my husband was poisoned for the first time. The poisoning left him in a coma with multiple organ failure. He was given a 5 percent chance of survival, yet he beat all the odds. He even had to re-learn how to walk.

And then he took his cane and went back to Russia.

A second poisoning attack in 2017 left him yet again in a coma with multiple organ failure. Thanks to an independent investigation by Bellingcat, The Insider, and Der Spiegel, we now know the names and the faces of those FSB operatives who had been following Vladimir before the attacks. They were the same people who had followed Boris Nemtsov before his assassination, and the same ones who in 2020 poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny with Novichok.

Today, Vladimir is held in a harsh “disciplinary cell” of a “special” regime prison colony in the city of Omsk in Western Siberia, about 2,000 miles from Moscow. Designated as a “foreign agent” by the Russian State and recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and laureate of the 2022 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, he was arrested in 2022 and sentenced last year to 25 years of a strict regime for so-called “high treason” based on five public speeches denouncing Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine and raising awareness about the ongoing human rights crisis in Russia. I am grateful for the appeal recently issued by a coalition of several organizations and individuals requesting the Biden administration to accelerate efforts to free him.

In an article published in the Washington Post in the summer of 2021, Vladimir wrote:

“Concern over human rights is not a political whim, a publicity stunt or an exercise in charity. It is a fundamental aspect of international relations, inextricably linked to both economic development and security issues.”

Whenever human rights violations are ignored or considered an internal affair of any State, internal repression always inevitably leads to external aggression, as the regime of Vladimir Putin has shown time and again — with the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and now the full-scale war on Ukraine.

Tyranny thrives in darkness. As Elena Bonner, the wife of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and an inspiring freedom fighter in her own right, wrote in her memoirs, “Academician Sakharov considers publicity the main weapon in the struggle for human rights. In that sense I am a faithful and consistent student of my husband.”

As a faithful and consistent student of my husband, I call on the global democratic community to stand with my brave compatriots who, like Vladimir, continue opposing Putin’s regime against all odds, both inside and outside of the country. The stories of those who embody the conscience of my people deserve to be known, and their voices deserve to be heard. There is a long list. It includes Alexandra Skochilenko, sentenced to seven years in prison for replacing price tags in a grocery store with anti-war messages; Dmitry Talantov, a lawyer who was  arrested for online criticism of the war in Ukraine; Yevgenya Berkovich, a prominent Russian theater director and playwright accused of “justifying terrorism” in the award-winning play about Russian women who married Islamic State fighters they met online;” Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician who is serving an eight-year sentence for posting videos denouncing the full-scale aggression again Ukraine; and hundreds and hundreds of others.

As Vladimir wrote from behind bars, “It is my hope that when people in the free world today think and speak about Russia, they will remember not only the war criminals who are sitting in the Kremlin but also those who are standing up to them. Because we are Russians, too.”

IMAGE: Vladimir Kara-Murza and his wife, the author, Evgenia Kara-Murza, touch the casket of the late U.S. Senator John McCain in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on August 31, 2018, in Washington, DC. Vladimir Kara-Murza was one of the pallbearers. (Photo credit should read ANDREW HARNIK/AFP via Getty Images)