- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2017

Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, a pro-Democracy crusader revered as one of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, was abruptly hospitalized with organ failure Thursday, the second time in two years that he has unexpectedly become critically ill, his wife told reporters.

The staunch Kremlin opponent was taken by ambulance to a Moscow hospital Thursday morning and placed in an intensive care unit “with symptoms similar to those he had two years ago,” the wife, Yevgenia Kara-Murza, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

“He was brought there conscious but put in a medicated coma and on life support later, because his organs began shutting down like last time,” she explained to the BBC. “His doctors describe his condition as critical. He has low blood pressure [and] respiratory insufficiency, and the reason for this is yet again unclear.”

Mr. Kara-Murza, 35, nearly died when he suffered sudden kidney failure in 2015. That incident occurred roughly three months after his close friend and fellow Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov was mysteriously murdered in downtown Moscow, spurring speculation at the time that both were targeted by Mr. Putin on account of their activism.

Mr. Kara-Murza had posted a photograph on social media from the scene of Nemtsov’s murder Wednesday evening, hours before suddenly becoming ill.

“We’re here. We remember,” he captioned the picture in Russian.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., where Mr. Kara-Murza frequently lobbied in support of ongoing sanctions imposed against Russia, warily weighed in Thursday soon after reports emerged of his illness.

“We do not know the details on the cause for this most recent health issue, but it appears to be part of an alarming trend where Russian political opposition are targeted for their work,” said Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top-ranking Democrat.

Mr. Cardin said the incident is a “test” for the Trump administration, which separately Thursday announced the rolling back of sanctions imposed by the Obama White House against the Russian government, despite Moscow’s continued involvement in conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

President Trump spoke with his Russian counterpart by phone Saturday for the first time since taking office, which the White House described afterwards as a significant start toward rebuilding a relationship “in need of repair.”

In light of Mr. Kara-Murza’s abrupt illness, however, it appears Republicans in Washington are far from being on the same page as Mr. Trump in terms of mending ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Vladimir Putin does not deserve any benefit of the doubt here, given how commonplace political assassinations and poisonings have become under his regime,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and former White House hopeful, said Thursday, The Hill reported.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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