20 February 2021
On 20th February Moscow City Court heard an appeal against the decision of the Simonovsky district court to replace the suspended sentence of politician Aleksei Navalny with a real prison term. The appeal was dismissed. Moscow City Court ruled that the six weeks Navalny had spent under house arrest in late 2014 – early 2015 should be taken into account. He will have to spend two and a half years in prison.
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Эхо Москвы]
I make these closing remarks all too often! And shortly this session will end, and then there will be my next trial and more closing remarks there too. Probably, if someone wanted to publish my closing remarks, it would turn out to be a rather thick book. And it seems to me that all the authorities in general and the owner of that wonderful palace himself, Vladimir Putin, are sending me this particular message: ‘Well, it all might seem rather strange, but here’s what we can do, take a look. We can do it.’
Like a juggler or a magician, he spins a ball first on one finger, then on another finger, then on his head, and he says, ‘Look, we can spin this judicial system on any part of our body. What can you possibly pull off against us? We can do anything we like, take a look, just like that.’ But, to be honest, it seems to me that this bravado of theirs… I realise that it is not only me, but also the general public who can see it as it makes an unpleasant impression on them. Because everyone thinks, ‘Yeah, and, if I clash with the judicial system, what chance have I got of winning against them?‘
But, nevertheless, closing remarks means you have to say your closing remarks. I don’t know what to talk about anymore, your honour. If you want I’ll talk to you about God and salvation. I’ll turn up the volume of heartbreak to the maximum, so to speak. The fact is that I am a Christian, which usually rather sets me up as an example for constant ridicule in the Anti-Corruption Foundation, because mostly our people are atheists and I was once quite a militant atheist myself. But now I am a believer, and that helps me a lot in my activities, because everything becomes much, much easier. I think about things less. There are fewer dilemmas in my life, because there is a book in which, in general, it is more or less clearly written what action to take in every situation. It’s not always easy to follow this book, of course, but I am actually trying. And so, as I said, it’s easier for me, probably, than for many others, to engage in politics.
A man recently wrote to me, ‘Navalny, why does everyone write to you, “Hold on, don’t give up, be patient, grit your teeth?” What do you have to tolerate? You kind of said in the interview that you believe in God. The Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Well, that’s just great for you, isn’t it!” And I thought, how well this man understands me! Because it’s not that I’m fine, but I’ve always thought that this particular commandment is more or less an instruction to activity. And so, while certainly not really enjoying the place where I am, I have no regrets about coming back, or about what I’m doing. It’s fine, because I did the right thing. On the contrary, I feel a real kind of satisfaction. Because at some difficult moment I did as required by the instructions, and did not betray the commandment.
And there’s one more important thing. Without question, this whole Biblical passage– “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” – comes across as overly theatrical to modern ears. It is assumed that people who say such things are crazy, not to put too fine a point on it – crazy oddbods who sit there alone in their rooms with dishevelled hair, attempting to cheer themselves up by any means possible, because they are lonely and not needed by anyone. This is the key point. Our authorities and the system as a whole try to tell these people that they are pathetic loners.
The first priority is to intimidate people, and then to prove to them that they are loners, and to imply that no normal or sane person would adhere to teachings of this kind. This attempt to make people believe that they are loners is highly significant, since it represents one of the goals pursued by the authorities. Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books was a remarkable philosopher who said something very wise about this topic. You might remember her saying to Harry Potter, in an attempt to give him courage in the face of adversity; “Well, if I were You-Know-Who… I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else…”. There can be no doubt that our own You-Know-Who in his palace would also want that.
These guards are great chaps, and the guards in my prison are also decent folk, but they don’t talk to me – they have apparently been forbidden to do so. They sometimes come out with stock phrases. This is also very important, because the aim is for me to feel unceasingly lonely. Yet this is not how I feel at all. And I will explain why. This teaching – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” – appears somehow esoteric and odd, but in fact it is the central political doctrine in modern Russia. Your Honour, what is it, this phrase or slogan, the most important political slogan in Russia? Where does power lie? Power lies in truth. That is what this teaching is saying. That is how it could be compressed into a Tweet, omitting the unnecessary words such as “for” and “thirst”. This is what it essentially means. And the whole country repeats in many different permutations that power lies in truth, and that whoever holds the truth will be victorious.
And this is a very important point, irrespective of the fact that our country is of course constructed on unfairness – unfairness that we constantly encounter. We see the worst side of unfairness – the armed variety. Yet at the same time, we see that millions or tens of millions of people want the truth. They want to get to the truth, and sooner or later they will do so. They will be satisfied. Because it is obvious to everyone – a palace exists. You can say that it does not belong to you or that it does not exist, but it surely does. And we also see the poverty. You can say as much as you like that we have a high standard of living, but the country is poor and this is obvious to everyone. And these people should be rich! They have built oil pipelines and they earn money, but the money is nowhere to be seen. This is the truth, and there is no way of defying it. And sooner or later these people who want the truth will get their due and be satisfied.
And there is something important I want to say to you, and through you – you, Mr Prosecutor – and, in fact, to all those in authority and to everyone, which is that it is important not to be afraid of these people. And do not be afraid of those who seek the truth. Because so many people are afraid – oh my God, what is going to happen? Will there be a revolution? Will it be a nightmare? But just think how good life would be without the constant lies, without the deceit. It’s… Having the possibility of not lying would just be amazing. Think how great it would be to work as a judge, with no kind of ‘telephone justice,’ no one calling you. You’re just a first-rate judge with a large salary, larger than you have now; you’re a respected pillar of the community. And no one will ever call you; no one will ever tell you how to decide a case. You’d be able to tell your children and grandchildren that yes, you really are an independent judge, and all the other judges are one hundred percent independent, too. Wouldn’t that be great? It would just be amazing.
I mean, wouldn’t it be great to be a prosecutor who actually works in an adversarial system? Who takes part in interesting legal sparring like that? Who actually defends someone or condemns real villains? I think it’s unlikely that people studied law and became prosecutors in order to then go on and fabricate criminal cases or forge signatures for someone. I don’t believe that’s why people become prosecutors. I don’t believe that people become police officers in order to then be able to say, ‘Wasn’t it great that we got to see that guy’s head get cracked open at that protest’ or ‘We escorted this guy to court and he was innocent. We got to listen to his never-ending final speech.’ No one wants that. They all want to be normal police officers because lies bring nothing but negatives. There are no positives; they’re not even getting paid any more. There are no positives, only negatives.
And for everyone… For businesses, for businesspeople… Businesses in the country will no longer be worth half their real value because there’s no judicial system, because of the injustice, because it’s all a mess, because there’s such poverty. It would obviously be much better for everyone if these lies and this injustice didn’t exist. It would be much better if those people who want the truth get the truth. It’s the same with FSB officers. There is not a single person in this world who sat bright-eyed in school, thinking: ‘When I grow up, I’m going to join the FSB, and they’ll send me to wash the opposition leader’s underpants because someone smeared them with poison.’ People like that just don’t exist. No one wants to be doing it. Everyone wants to be normal, respectable; they want to catch terrorists, gangsters, spies; they want to fight all this.
And this is really important – not to fear those who are seeking the truth, but maybe to support them, either directly or indirectly. Maybe not even to support them, but to at least not enable this lie, this falsehood…. not to make the world around you a worse place. There is, of course, a small risk involved in this, but firstly, it’s not a significant one, and secondly, as a fantastic modern philosopher called Rick Sanchez once said: ‘To live is to risk it all. Otherwise you’re just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you.’
The last thing I want to say is that I have been getting a lot of letters recently, and half of them end with ‘Russia will be free.’ And this is a cool slogan. I say it constantly, I repeat it, I write it in my letters, I shout it at protests, but I always think that there’s something missing. I do of course want Russia to be free…it has to be. But it’s not enough. This will not appear all by itself. I want Russia to be rich in a way that corresponds to her national wealth (resources). I want these resources to be shared more equally – everyone gets a piece of the gas and oil pie. I want us not only to be free, but you know, also to have decent healthcare. For men to live to an age where they get their pension, because half of the men in Russia don’t manage that at the moment. And it’s not much better for women.
I want education to be good and for people to be able to study OK. And, of course, I’d like people to earn the same in Russia for the same job as in average European countries, because right now it’s much less. Anyone – police officers, computer programmers, journalists, you name them, everyone gets much less. There are many other things I would like to happen in this country. And that’s why we need to fight not so much against Russia being unfree, but against her being, overall, in all respects unhappy. Russia is always…we have everything, but nevertheless, we’re an unhappy country. Open any work of Russian literature, and God, you’ll be amazed – description after description of unhappiness and suffering. We are a very unhappy country. We’re in a vicious circle of unhappiness that we can’t escape from. But of course, it would be good to, and I am therefore proposing to change our slogan. It’s not enough for Russia to be free, Russia should also be happy. Russia will be happy. That is all from me.
Translated by Graham Jones, Joanne Reynolds, Nicky Brown and Cameron Evans