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‘We hear daily that this war is for peace’ Moscow municipal deputy Alexey Gorinov’s seven-year prison term for ‘disinformation’ has been shortened — by a month. Here's his final court speech.

Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP / LETA

On September 19, Moscow’s Municipal Court “softened” its earlier decision, which sentenced Alexey Gorinov to seven years in prison. The municipal deputy, charged under Russia's law against "disinformation" for calling the war a war, is now to spend six years and 11 months in a penal colony. During a closed hearing, the 61-year-old defendant addressed the court. His final speech was published by the Free Alexey Gorinov! Telegram channel.

Seven years in prison — is that a lot, or a little? It takes eight minutes for solar radiation to reach the Earth. The light waves from a searchlight turned towards the sky will reach the star nearest to the Sun in just over four years — two-thirds of my prison term. And it will take about 2,000,000 years for that light to reach the stellar system nearest to us, the Andromeda Galaxy.

It’s unimaginably long. But think how many people have been affected by the war in Ukraine. Each of them lost years of normal, peaceful life. Some lost their lives. Do the multiplication, and try to grasp the cosmic scale of the events we’re talking about. This is the scale of responsibility resting upon each and every one of us — including myself. And the very least that I can do is to call things their proper names.

Will seven years be enough for me to reform myself from a pacifist into a hawk? Enough to concede that the “special military operation” is not a war, a military conflict, but a peacemaking effort? Will it be enough time to learn to deny the civilian deaths, including child deaths, in the course of this “operation”? To start urging others not to stop these military exploits, but to carry on? We shall see.

We’re also going to see whether these seven years will be enough for Russia’s political leadership to grasp the foreign-policy, economic and moral catastrophe it has brought upon our country.

Destruction, such as has not been seen since the Second World War, has been wreaked on a European country. Tens of thousands dead and wounded on either side. Millions of refugees. All the same, we hear daily and hourly that this war is for peace. We’re trained to accept that killing one another is a right and natural thing to do.

One TV news block shows us, ecstatically, a deadly storm of shells and rockets where every shot costs a million rubles! Next, we see humanitarian aid being delivered to the survivors, on territories just “liberated” from those very same people. And then, we’re invited to chip in for yet another expensive surgery to save a sick child.

No! This is not normal. This can only appear to be normal in an inverted picture of the world that exists in the head of one person — or perhaps several people — holding absolute power, with all of its levers, but in isolation from civil society and the people.

I want to acknowledge my guilt. My guilt before the long-suffering people of Ukraine, and before the entire global community. I’m culpable because, as a citizen of my country, I was unable to prevent this ongoing madness. I ask forgiveness, too, for the fact that I, it seems, will not be able to do anything to stop it. I say this also in the name of my compatriots, who are crushed by the fear of repressions, and from whom I receive numerous letters of support.

At this moment, the leading developed countries and their governments have a responsibility for life on Earth, and for technological progress without wars. Russia, with its innumerable human losses — in the Civil War, in the madness of collectivization and the Great Terror, in two world wars and in many lesser ones — still hasn’t passed the test of shouldering its fair share of responsibility.

Realizing the lawlessness of what they do, those in power shift some of their own burden of responsibility onto the courts, frenziedly shoving their citizens into prisons and penal colonies — for a word, for expressing an opinion, for having convictions. The very possibility of a process like my own in the twenty-first century, of this kind of judicial investigation, is a disgrace for our country. This has all happened before, in its history.

In light of the lessons of our shared past, and in view of Russia’s imminent future, I consider myself acquitted.

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