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‘You’re sitting in robes, beneath the state flag and coat-of-arms. Do something to help our country.’ Alexey Navalny urged his judges not to be complicit in Putin’s crimes.
On October 18, the imprisoned Russian politician Alexey Navalny appeared before the Moscow appellate court to appeal his nine-year maximal-security prison sentence. We’re publishing an abridged version of Navalny’s courtroom speech, in which he called the war in Ukraine “an immense crime,” started by Vladimir Putin and his circle to cover up the disastrous results of their 22 years of government. Navalny urged the court not to be complicit in the crimes of Putin’s regime. The court dismissed his appeal.
I was sentenced to nine years in a maximal security prison. In our country, the average murder sentence is seven years. This suggests that I must have committed some truly dreadful crime. But this makes it all the stranger that there’s no victim that we could speak of in this trial. Nor in the previous appeal. And even in the original case, the “victims” all seemed kind of reluctant.
Those were just four people found by the Investigative Committee among the 300,000 who donated money to the Anti-Corruption Foundation. Two of them had simply donated — and then, immediately, reported that their money had been embezzled. Two others wrote up their complaints when criminal cases were opened against them. Prosecution witnesses said that they were pressured in the trial. Later, it turned out that this was all recorded, down to witnesses being made to rehearse their statements. A person from the President’s Office kept calling the judge in the breaks.
When I received the piece of paper that said, “a public court hearing is hereby scheduled at the penal facility in Pokrov,” that paper said it all. A public court hearing. In a penal colony. Why would the Moscow Lefortovo court hold a hearing in some remote town? Because “this is how we want it.” “We don’t give a damn, and we’ll just do whatever we want.” That’s what that notice meant. Today, we can see the whole essence of what happened then. I would like the court to consider this as a substantive fact. Let’s consider this — and we’ll see that what happened was a crime against justice, a fabricated court process.
That crime was minuscule, compared to the scale of the enormous crime being prepared. The first day of my trial literally coincided with the beginning of the war. This war is an immense crime committed by our current government, and specifically by President Putin, against our whole country. To pave the way for their huge crime, they committed lesser crimes — namely, they started imprisoning people who would, they knew, speak against the war. Myself, Yashin, Kara-Murza, and so forth. Hundreds of people are now in prison because they wouldn’t have kept silent about the regime’s crimes.
The brazenness and haste of my trial made clear that this regime understood the scale of the crime it was about to commit, and was afraid of the consequences. They knew what they were getting into. On the first day of this war I said to the court that it was a crime, and that they would lose this war. This is exactly what we can see now. They’re already losing it.
For many years, I collected donations to carry on my organization’s work — to show everyone, with concrete evidence and facts, that this regime is made up of revolting thieves, villains, and hypocrites, who wrecked everything in the country. Ten years ago, we made a video about Shoigu. We exposed him as a colossal thief with a gigantic vacation home. It was clear that he would loot anything he could get his hands on. I told everyone that Zolotov, the head of the National Guard, was looting everything he could, right down to potatoes. And then Putin, Medvedev, and the rest. It was clear that, after 22 years of their looting, now that the whole country is in shambles, they needed to start a war, simply to cover up the wreckage at home. These people are ready to start a nuclear armageddon, just to protect their right to keep on looting. But the fact is that the emperor has no clothes.
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When we investigated, when we collected the money to fund this work, we were trying to show that this regime is senseless, useless, dumb, and criminal. We did everything in our power to consolidate some kind of public will, to influence elections, to stop this regime, and to get in its way as it pushed our country farther and farther along, towards catastrophe. This is my one regret: that we didn’t do this effectively enough. We could not avert the catastrophe into which we’re all presently tumbling. The only question now is how hard will Russia hit that rock bottom, and will it remain in one piece.
Your honor, your decision today concerns a very minor and insignificant case. But when you deliberate, you will know that I am right — because you, too, see what’s happening, every day. You know full well that this will all end very badly. You can see the catastrophe yourself. Hundreds of thousands of people torn away from their families and thrown into the trenches, where they will die while trying to kill others.
How can this not be pertinent, your honor? It’s the court of appeals, but we’re citizens — and you, you’re judges! You’re sitting in robes, beneath the state flag and coat-of-arms. I’m asking you to do something to help our country, to save it from those madmen, who destroy everything in sight. They have killed tens of thousands, they will kill hundreds of thousands more — and they’re threatening to kill millions.
I would like to state that I’m innocent. I think that I, and people like myself, are doing everything in their power — not very well, but still — we’re doing everything in our power to avert this catastrophe. We’re going to continue doing this. I urge Russian citizens, people who support me or anybody else, to fight against this regime, against this war, and against this disgusting mobilization — simply for the sake of our country’s future.
Thank you very much. I ask to be acquitted.
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