30 November 2023
Moscow City Court has denied the appeal against the pre-trial detention of director Evgeniya Berkovich and screenwriter Svetlana Petriychuk. Today, Berkovich complained she felt unwell, saying that it hurt her to stand, after which the judge permitted her to speak seated. Spektr publishes Evgeniya Berkovich’s speech.
Yes, Your honor, thank you for allowing me to be seated. I’ll try to be brief because it is painful.
We have in fact been in prison for seven months, and in addition to what my defense lawyer has said, what Svetlana’s defense lawyer has said, and what Svetlana herself has said, further to this case on the validity in principle of choosing pre-trial detention for us, which is, to put it mildly, highly dubious, I want to say something else.
About the fact that my family and living situation is such that my being in custody is an absolute catastrophe not only and perhaps not so much for me as for several utterly helpless people who are guilty of absolutely nothing and have not been accused of anything. We have spoken about this at every hearing.
In response—fortunately I have barely heard or seen this—but it has come to me that there is speculation that Berkovich is hiding behind her children, Berkovich is hiding behind her old people. Here, with every sentence, actually, the question gets stronger and stronger: who is hiding behind my children and my old people each time we speak about my little girls. You have all these materials because at the last hearing with Judge Raskhmatov we brought a tremendous amount of thoroughly documented material—expert analysis, information, and so on.
We have been speaking about the fact that their condition was poor at the moment of my arrest because both of them have serious diagnoses, which I cannot make public in an open hearing, but my older daughter is a second-group invalid and my younger daughter also has serious diagnoses. That is, everything was difficult there in any case, and since the moment of my arrest it has been getting worse and worse. My younger daughter began having asthma specifically in the context of my arrest. She couldn’t breathe on her own, she began having serious anemia, and she was on a drip—she was in bad shape overall.
My older daughter, who is an invalid, has a serious psychiatric diagnosis. Her condition has been deteriorating steadily, and she has been having very serious breakdowns. I’m not going to describe them. In particular, though, the investigators who conducted the search—I don’t remember whether our senior investigator Polishchuk was there at the search, I barely remember those few hours. But basically they saw how stress manifests itself in my older daughter. It’s dangerous for her above all, and it’s getting worse and worse and worse.
We have called experts to the trial, serious psychologists, not just some girlfriends and nannies of mine—these are clinical psychologists, they have done serious expert analysis—and they say that we are simply losing the girls, we’re already losing them.
And this is dangerous for their health and their life. I do not say this lightly. I’ve been an adoptive mama for a fairly long time, we’ve been through a lot, and I’m not saying these things to hide behind them. I don’t need to hide behind anything. I need to protect my daughters, which is what I am doing.
Moreover, we have spoken every time about how I have two grandmothers, born in 1934, who are under my care. Soon it will be 2024, that is, it’s not hard to calculate that next year one grandmother will turn 90. The other grandmother will never turn 90 because 10 days ago she died.
And every time we talked about how apart from this fact, of course, this is hideously hard psychologically for a 90-year-old person. Apart from everything else, while I’m in the remand prison I can’t deal with their health. My mama is on a pension, my father lives in another country, and he is also elderly. They rely on me—financially, morally, and socially—in every way. They rely on me.
Various anonymous necrophages have spoken many times about PR—that this is my PR. Evidently, I put myself in jail and am very happy about it. Now, evidently, they’re very happy—God bless them.
Now I will try to talk about this briefly because I really don’t feel like talking about it at all. The following happened: this is directly connected to my pre-trial detention. Actually, this is the pre-trial detention. Thanks in part to Mrs. Moskalkova, thanks to the concern of many wonderful people I don’t know, I don’t understand very well how this happened, but I am truly grateful to these people. In truth, I’m sincerely grateful.
They arranged for me to be transported to Petersburg in order to say goodbye to my grandmother and attend her funeral. I believe in all sincerity that for those people, whoever they were but who in some amazing way organized all this, this was an act of mercy, and I am very grateful for it.
But thanks specifically to the pre-trial detention chosen by Judge Rakhmatov, an act of mercy became an act of torture. I absolutely am not saying these words lightly, indeed in seven months I have not once said that my stay in the remand centre has been a stay in conditions of torture, although the conditions are, of course, hideous. In this specific instance, this was torture.
Without going into detail, it was exactly 24 hours, even 25, that I spent in a cage in a police truck that was not heated, and I did not have warm things with me because I didn’t know where we were going, where my defense lawyers were, I didn’t know where I was. And this was a steel cage, a steel cage about one by two meters, where it’s impossible to stand and impossible to sit normally, it was so painful. Therefore now, I beg your pardon, I cannot stand or sit. I can, but it is painful. It’s impossible to sleep there. And it’s very cold there because there’s no heating. The escort has heating somewhere, but not there. I didn’t have warm things. The only warm things I had they wouldn’t let me take with me to the truck because they were against the rules. No kerchief because it could be folded and then it would look like a scarf, and a scarf was not allowed. There I was, sitting in a light jacket and autumn trainers, for an entire day. I had no food with me if you don’t count the frozen tins from 2022 that they issued to me. I didn’t know where I was going. There was just just no possibility of getting this food anywhere, I had no water. But even if I had had water I wouldn’t have drunk it because . . . I beg your pardon for having to mention these kinds of details, but in the 24 or 25 hours they took me to the toilet twice.
I am well aware that no matter what I say, I will remain for you, Your Honor, and for some other people, an ungrateful swine, but you know, I don’t have the strength right now to be a likeable gingerbread man. If I’m being tortured, I’m talking about this and believe it is essential to talk about this. As we doubtless all understand, the problem is not with you personally, Your Honor, or me, and so forth, but with the legality, justice, and validity of our still being in custody for seven months.
Whatever I am, my grandmother died.
Whatever I am, my child can’t breathe, she’s gasping for breath and lying under drips.
Whatever I am, my other child is smashing my furniture, harming herself, and is in a hideous and very grave not just psychological but psychiatric condition.
Whatever I am at this time. I may be a very bad, unpleasant person, but I’m not a criminal. And on the whole this is not what we are discussing right now, whether or not I’m a criminal. I do not admit my guilt, and it is not your turn to decide whether or not I’m a criminal. I leave it at that. Thank you.
Translated by Marian Schwartz