-- A Russian opposition activist who has been hospitalized twice in the last year in alleged poisonings by the Putin regime testified on Capitol Hill today, in a Senate hearing aimed at establishing counter-Russia funding.
Vladimir Kara-Murza was active in working for a U.S. law passed in 2012 that bans visas and freezes assets of Russian officials involved in repression and corruption. He splits his time between Moscow and Washington as Vice Chairman for Open Russia, an organization that advocates democracy and human rights inside Russia.
In his testimony before the Senate committee on Wednesday, Kara-Murza said the U.S. needs to take a harsher stance against Russia and Vladimir Putin's regime.
Wednesday's hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs was to make the case for a counter-Russia financial account that would help states and organizations fighting back against the Putin regime.
Kara-Murza opened his testimony by listing current issues of oppression in Russia including lack of free and fair elections, silencing independent media outlets and designating some non-profits doing work there as foreign agents or spies.
He said there are currently 100 political prisoners in Russia and, after tens of thousands of people marched through the streets in different cities across Russia over the weekend, more than 1,500 people were arrested.
Kara-Murza said he thinks the U.S. should be honest about what’s happening in Russia and not "enable corrupt or abusive behavior" and "continue to engage with Russia’s civil society."
He said he believes Western democracies have given Putin a pass to interfere in elections because they "have not taken a principled, firm stand against Russia's actions."
The size of protests in Russia last week show that young people the country no longer trust Putin's regime, he said, calling his regime "a dead end for Russia."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Russia in a few weeks and Kara-Murza noted that it will be interesting to see if Tillerson meets with opposition activists, saying it is vital to maintain lines of communication outside the Kremlin and that the U.S. has to play a role in countering propaganda.
ABC's Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this report.