Durbin Applauds Administration’s Decision To Impose Magnitsky Law Following Unjust Jailing & Killing Of Democratic Opposition Leaders

Durbin has continuously called for the release of Russian-opposition leader Kara-Murza; paid tribute to Cuban-opposition leader Payá

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke on the Senate floor applauding the Biden Administration’s decision to impose Magnitsky Law related sanctions on several Putin henchmen involved in the jailing of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition figure who survived two poisoning attempts by the Kremlin.  The news follows a letter from Durbin, Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to swiftly impose Magnitsky Law related sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the arrest, jailing, and poisoning of Kara-Murza.

Durbin said, “Kara-Murza is an incredible Russian patriot who, despite being poisoned twice by the Kremlin, returned to Russia last year to continue the peaceful struggle for a more democratic nation and an end to the disastrous war in Ukraine.  I will never forget that he came to talk to me just before he returned to Russia and reflected on his determination and optimism for a better future for the Russia.  Tragically, he was arrested shortly after arriving in Moscow on the laughable charge of criticizing Mr. Putin’s war.  Kara-Murza, Alexei Navalny, and so many other Russians who are courageously pursuing that better future for Russia deserve our support, and to be released from Putin’s disgraceful gulags.”  

Last year, the Senate passed Durbin, Shaheen, and Rubio’s bipartisan resolutionhonoring Kara-Murza.  The resolution also pays tribute to his advocacy for human rights in Russia and support for the anti-war movement.  Additionally, it urges the U.S. and its allies to secure his release and that of Alexei Navalny and other Russian political prisoners, and calls for the U.S. government to support the cause of democracy and human rights in Russia.  Last March, Durbin met with Vladimir Kara-Murza to discuss the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and his particular insights on Russian politics.

Durbin also spoke on the similarly brave Cuban patriot, Oswaldo Payá, who died under suspicious circumstances nearly 11 years ago.  Payá spent years advocating for peaceful democratic change on the island, including submitting thousands of signatures calling for greater political freedoms—using a process allowed by the Cuban constitution.

Durbin continued, “Not only did the Castro regime cowardly ignore these modest requests, but it then brazenly changed the constitutional provision that allowed for this kind of public political input.  And after years of harassment and threats, in July 2012, his car was run off the road by a government vehicle, leading to his death.  The Cuban government has never provided a credible accounting of the incident or charged anyone with his death.”

This week, Durbin along with Senators Rubio, Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Mark Warner (D-VA), once again called on the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights to complete such an investigation.  In 2013, Durbin sent his first letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza, urging the Commission to investigate Payá’s suspicious death.  Durbin continued pushing for answers with letters calling for more information sent in 2014, 2016, and 2021, all of which were resent to the Commission in addition to Durbin’s new letter.

Durbin has long sought justice for the death of Payá.  Last year, he introduced a bipartisan resolution with Rubio to honor the life and legacy of Payá on the 10thanniversary of his death in July 2022.  In 2012, he joined Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Menendez, Rubio, Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Richard Lugar (R-IN), and John Kerry (D-MA) in passing a resolution honoring the work of Payá and calling “on the Government of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiña.” 

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here. 

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.