On February 2, during a hearing that will determine if he remains in prison for several years to come, opposition figure Alexey Navalny addressed the court, delivering a short speech in which he maintained his innocence and condemned Russia’s political and legal system for corruption and repression. Meduza publishes an English-language translation of Navalny’s courtroom remarks below.
I would like to begin by discussing the legal issue here, which seems to me to be paramount and a bit overlooked in this discussion. There are two people sitting right there and one of them is saying: let’s lock up Navalny because he showed up [to meet with his parole officers] on Mondays, not Thursdays. And the other says: let’s lock up Navalny because he didn’t show up immediately after coming out of his coma. But I would like everyone to remember that the essence of this trial is to lock me up over a case in which I was already exonerated — a case that’s already been recognized as fabricated.
If we look at the criminal statutes — your Honor, I hope you’ve already done this once or twice — we’ll see that the European Court of Human Rights is part [of the Russian justice system] and its decisions are binding. The Russian Federation halfway acknowledged this ruling and even paid me compensation here. Despite this, my brother spent 3.5 years in prison because of this same case. I spent an entire year under house arrest for this same case.
Let’s do a little math. The verdict was in 2014, it’s 2021 now, and I’m still being prosecuted for this. Why this case exactly? There’s a reason and it’s not because there’s some shortage of criminal charges against me. Somebody wanted me arrested, the moment I crossed the border [after returning from Germany].
The poisoning investigation
The explanation is one man’s hatred and fear — one man hiding in a bunker. I mortally offended him by surviving. I survived thanks to good people, thanks to pilots and doctors. And then I committed an even more serious offense: I didn’t run and hide. Then something truly terrifying happened: I participated in the investigation of my own poisoning, and we proved, in fact, that Putin, using Russia’s Federal Security Service, was responsible for this attempted murder. And that’s driving this thieving little man in his bunker out of his mind. He’s simply going insane as a result.
There’s no popularity ratings. No massive support. There’s none of that. Because it turns out that dealing with a political opponent who has no access to television and no political party merely requires trying to kill him with a chemical weapon. So, of course, he’s losing his mind over this. Because everyone was convinced that he’s just a bureaucrat who was accidentally appointed to his position. He’s never participated in any debates or campaigned in an election. Murder is the only way he knows how to fight. He’ll go down in history as nothing but a poisoner. We all remember Alexander the Liberator [Alexander II] and Yaroslav the Wise [Yaroslav I]. Well, now we’ll have Vladimir the Underpants Poisoner.
I’m standing here, guarded by the police, and the National Guard is out there with half of Moscow cordoned off. All this because that small man in a bunker is losing his mind. He’s losing his mind because we proved and demonstrated that he isn’t buried in geopolitics; he’s busy holding meetings where he decides how to steal politicians’ underpants and smear them with chemical weapons to try to kill them.
The main thing in this whole trial isn’t what happens to me. Locking me up isn’t difficult. What matters most is why this is happening. This is happening to intimidate large numbers of people. They’re imprisoning one person to frighten millions.
We’ve got 20 million people living below the poverty line. We have tens of millions of people living without the slightest prospects for the future. Life is bearable in Moscow, but travel 100 kilometers in any direction and everything’s a mess. Our whole country is living in this mess, without the slightest prospects, earning 20,000 rubles [$265] a month. And they’re all silent; they try to shut people up with these show trials. Lock up this one to scare millions more. One person takes to the streets and they lock up another five people to scare 15 million more.
I hope very much that people won’t look at this trial as a signal that they should be more afraid. This isn’t a demonstration of strength — it’s a show of weakness. You can’t lock up millions and hundreds of thousands of people. I hope very much that people will realize this. And they will. Because you can’t lock up the whole country.
The only thing growing in [Russia] is the number of billionaires. Everything else is declining. I’m locked up in a prison cell and all I hear about on TV is that butter is getting more expensive. The price of eggs is rising. You’ve deprived these people of a future.
Everything I’m saying now reflects my attitude toward the performance you’ve staged here. This is what happened when lawlessness and tyranny become the essence of a political system, and it’s horrifying.
But it’s even worse when lawlessness and tyranny pose as state prosecutors and dress up in judges’ robes. It’s the duty of every person to defy you and to defy such laws.
I am fighting as best I can and I will continue to do so, despite the fact that I’m now under the control of people who love to smear everything with chemical weapons. My life isn’t worth two cents, but I will do everything I can so that the law prevails. And I salute and thank the staff at the Anti-Corruption Foundation who have been arrested and all the honest people across the country who aren’t afraid and who take to the streets. Because they have the same rights as you. This country belongs to them just as it does to you and everyone else. We demand proper justice, decent treatment, participation in elections, and participation in the distribution of the national wealth. Yes, we demand all this.
I want to say that there are many good things in Russia now. The very best are the people who aren’t afraid — people who don’t look the other way, who will never hand our country over to a bunch of corrupt officials who want to trade it for palaces, vineyards, and aqua-discos.
I demand my immediate release and the release of all political prisoners. I do not recognize your performance here — it’s a deception and completely illegal.