It was 4 a.m. in Moscow, Feb. 2, 2017, when Vladimir Kara-Murza knew something was horribly wrong – again. He was scheduled to leave later that morning for America to attend his daughter’s eighth birthday party.
But instead, the 35-year-old Kara-Murza, a fearless and persistent critic of Vladimir Putin, was suddenly gripped with the knowledge that, for the second time in two years, his life was in danger.
“My heart was racing, I was sweating,” he told Yahoo News’ Bianna Golodryga in an interview. “It became really difficult to breathe. … It was really frightening. I knew I only had a few minutes in which I could still do something”
Kara-Murza called his wife, who lives in the Washington suburbs. She immediately phoned a prominent Moscow doctor who had treated him the last time this happened. Kara-Murza was rushed to a Moscow hospital, where in the hours that followed, the doctors frantically tried to figure out what was happening to his body.
One by one, Kara-Murza’s kidneys, lungs and other organs began to shut down. “All my organs failed within six hours,” he said. “By that evening, I was in a coma and was on life support.”
The doctors inserted a breathing tube. They brought in a dialysis machine and cleaned his blood, seeking to purge whatever foreign substance had invaded his body. Kara-Murza stayed unconscious for a week but miraculously survived.
When he was released three weeks later, the discharge papers recorded the diagnosis: “Toxic action by an undefined substance.” It was virtually the same diagnosis as before, in May 2015, when Karza-Murza was rushed to the hospital and also fell into a coma.
He had been poisoned twice in less than two years. Somebody in Russia very much wanted Kara-Murza dead. “I could never imagine this happening – not to mention to our family,” said Evgenia Kara-Murza in a joint interview with her husband at the Russian restaurant, Mari Vanna. “It’s unthinkable.”
“Follow the trail of dead Russians,” said former FBI intelligence analyst Clint Watts when asked at a Senate intelligence committee hearing how the panel could unravel the aggressive role that Moscow played in the 2016 election.