19 September 2022
by Aleksei Gorinov, laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Closing speech in court
Seven years of imprisonment. Is that long or short?
The rays from the sun reach the earth in eight minutes.
The wavefront of a searchlight that beams up into the sky will reach the Sun’s nearest star in just over four years. That is almost two-thirds of my sentence.
It will take approximately two million years for light to reach our nearest stellar system, the Andromeda Galaxy.
An unimaginably long time? Yet try to recall how many people have been affected by the war in Ukraine, taking from them years of normal, peaceful life, and for some, taking their life, and then multiply the two.
Try to imagine, try to understand the cosmic scale of events that we are talking about here. That same amount of responsibility rests on everyone, including me.
And the least I can do, is to say things as they truly are.
Will seven years – as well as my whole life experience – be enough to “correct” me from being a pacifist to a war hawk? To accept the ongoing special military operation not as military conflict or war, but as an act that is bringing people peace? To learn how to turn a blind eye to the death of the civilian population, including children, during this “operation”? To call not for a ceasefire, but for a continuation of the war? Time will tell…
Time will also tell if seven years will be enough for the political leadership of the country to realise the extent of the catastrophic damage they have done to Russia’s foreign policy, economy and moral integrity.
Devastation in a European country, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the Second World War. Tens of thousands of dead and wounded on both sides. Millions of refugees. Meanwhile, we are told daily and hourly that this war is for the sake of peace. Brainwashing us to believe that killing each other is right and normal.
In the same news broadcast, we are shown with great enthusiasm deadly rocket strikes and shelling, each strike costing a million roubles! And then, we watch as humanitarian aid is delivered to the survivors and to the territories that have been “liberated” from those very survivors. After which, we are offered to chip in for yet another expensive operation to help a sick child.
No, this is not normal!
This can only seem normal in an upside-down version of the world, which has formed in the head of one or the heads of several people, who have absolute power and pull all the strings. People, who have isolated themselves from civil society and from its citizens.
I would like to admit my guilt.
Guilt before the long-suffering people of Ukraine, and before the entire international community. Guilt because I, as a citizen of Russia, could do nothing at all to prevent the ongoing madness. And I apologise for the fact that there is apparently nothing I can do now to put a stop to it.
I am saying this on behalf of my countrymen and women too, who are crushed by the fear of repression, and from whom I receive numerous letters of support.
Now, the responsibility for peace on earth, life and technological progress without war lies with the governments of the leading economically-developed countries. Russia has already caused an incalculable loss of human life in the 20th century. During the civil war, the mania of collectivisation and the Great Purge, during the two world wars and many local wars. But so far, Russia has not taken its share of accountability.
Realising the unlawfulness of their actions, the authorities are shifting some of the burden of responsibility for these deeds onto the judicial system, and frantically shoving citizens into prisons and labour camps for their words, for expressing their opinion and for their beliefs. The very fact that it is possible to try a case like mine in the 21st century, the reality of today’s sentencing hearing, brings shame on Russia. All of this is history repeating itself.
Based on the lessons of our common past, and in light of Russia’s inevitable future, my actions have already been justified.
Translated by Alina Loginova