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‘I want to say thank you to Putin personally’ Moscow lawmaker Yulia Galyamina’s final statement in court as she faces three years behind bars for protesting

Source: Meduza
Dmitry Dukhanin / Kommersant

On Friday, December 18, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court held deliberations on the case of Moscow City Duma deputy Yulia Galyamina, who is facing criminal charges for repeatedly violating the “rules on conducting public events.” Galyamina, who is also a lecturer at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE), became the subject of a criminal case due to her involvement in an unauthorized protest opposing amendments to the Russian constitution on July 15, 2020 (law enforcement officers arrested more than 100 people at the demonstration). She was also fined several times for taking part in protests ahead of the Moscow City Duma elections during the summer of 2019. State prosecutors are now seeking a three year prison sentence for the Moscow lawmaker. Here is the final statement that Yulia Galyamina made in court today.

Dear friends, I want to start my final statement with the word “thank you.” Thank you to everyone who supports me: to my family and friends, my team and colleagues, fellow teachers and students, deputies, politicians, and of course, my voters, present and future, from different parts of our motherland. To the millions of people who I represent in this court.

A great woman, the great politician Indira Gandhi said: “Experience taught me that when people do something against you, that something always turns out in your favor.”

So I want to say thank you to those who persecuted me, as well: the police officers, Center E officers, and the FSB officers, the investigators, judges, their assistants, the prosecutors, the Presidential Executive Office, and Vladimir Putin personally. You not only helped me see how many people came to my defense. You not only made me stronger by giving me the experience of resilience and the ability to enjoy life, no matter what. You proved to the entire country that I really am a threat to you.

I am teacher, a municipal deputy, a politician who advocates for non-violent change, for honest political competition, for a decent life for people. I, a woman, pose a threat to a man, who, it would seem, enjoys all possible power. But this man is still just a little man, who is afraid of soft, feminine power. He’s afraid because, as yesterday’s show [Putin’s annual press conference] showed, he has absolutely nothing to offer the people of Russia other than cheap pasta and violence.

I, unlike my persecutors, offer all of us a future. I am proposing a future in which each person in our country, wherever they live, would be able to live with dignity: earn decent money, buy good food and clothes, travel, heal their relatives, and teach their children. And while feeling free and safe. 

It’s precisely for such a future — the future of normal life, the normal Russia of the future — that the 16 million Russian citizens who supported our campaign against the amendments to the constitution voted for. Against the amendments that were designed to deprive us of that future. And, mind you, it’s precisely for this campaign against the amendments, meaning, for our common future — that I’m on trial. 

To achieve the future that we are all dreaming about, we need for officials not to make decisions for the people, but rather just to fulfil their will. For them not to cut down forests and parks, not to build landfills, not to erect high-rise ghettos, not to amalgamate hospitals, not to switch to online education exclusively, not to build digital surveillance systems, not to take resources from the regions and local governments, not to destroy small- and medium-sized businesses, and not to take money from pensioners and the parents of large families. A system in which entities decide the life of millions is abnormal. As abnormal as the coronavirus epidemic.

After all, people have the right to decide how their life, their world, their future, will be built. But for this, any person needs their representatives in power. People who promote the interests of every Russian citizen to the administrations of the country’s rural settlements, cities, and regions. [The interests] of everyone — of the ones sitting in this courtroom and of those who don’t even know what’s happening here. The interests of every ordinary Russian, not Putin and his entourage. We need for our representatives in power to be the most active from among us ordinary, living people. Politicians who we can run into at a neighborhood store, and not Kremlin puppets in cars with flashing lights and dead meat inside. 

Who can ensure that power becomes the power of the people and for the people? There are thousands of women and men across the country who are becoming leaders of change, leaders of perseverance, leaders of a normal future. Everyone who dreams of this future should unite around them.

They don’t simply want to return power to the people, but they are already doing a lot [to achieve] this, getting elected as local deputies, leading charity organizations, creating useful, lively businesses, organizing campaigns to protect the environment…Those people who already want to protect historical heritage or socially unprotected and persecuted people.

By interacting with these drivers of change, I am inspired to go further. And so I look at today’s trial without fear. It doesn’t matter whether I am free or in prison, whether I can personally continue to be a deputy or not, I know for sure that this movement won’t be stopped. And I will work to make this noticeable to every citizen of Russia, to resonate with every soul. And inspire everyone to take a step towards the future. 

We must remember that despite all of the obstacles and resistance from the Kremlin, 2021 is a real chance to turn the tide. If we miss this chance, the next one will appear only in three years. Therefore, all of us together need to unite our efforts and make next year’s elections decisive. And not only the State Duma election, but also the regional and local ones. We need a general civil monitoring project [for the vote], maximum support for candidates, and truly massive participation in the elections. Only a massive turnout will be able to break the machine of falsification and make it so that ordinary, normal people have their representatives in power at all levels. Because this is our right, this is our country, this is our life, and our future.

After all, as Gandhi said: “There is no road to freedom, because freedom is the road.”

Let us, dear compatriots, neighbors across Moscow and Russia, wake up from our learned helplessness, give ourselves a shake, believe in ourselves, straighten our shoulders, put on our best suits and fancy dresses, let’s be filled with joy, soft power, and courage. And let’s go down this road. Thank you!

I would also add at the end of my final statement that the three years that the prosecutors have asked for me now are exactly the three years that separate us from the 2024 elections. I think these three years will give me a great chance to become the most popular politician in Russia. And take part in Russia’s presidential elections. 

You can read Yulia Galyamina’s statement in the original Russian here.

Recorded by Kristina Safonova

Translation by Eilish Hart

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