Aleksei Navalny’s speech in court: “We shall have Vladimir the Underpants Poisoner.”

2 February 2021

On 2 February 2021 Simonovsky district court heard a petition by the Federal Penitentiary Service to sentence Aleksei Navalny to a real term in prison in place of the suspended sentence he had been given in the Yves Rocher case. Dozhd has published a transcript of Navalny’s speech in court.

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

I’d like to start by discussing the legal issue which seems to me to be most important and somewhat left out of the discussion. It all looks a bit strange. There are two people sitting over there. One of them says: “Let’s put him in jail for showing up Thursdays instead of on Mondays.” And the other says: “Let’s put him in jail for coming out of a coma and not reporting in as he should have done.”

There’s a discussion going on, everyone is talking about Mondays and Thursdays, but I would like to say a few words about a certain little elephant in this room. And I would like everyone to pay attention to the crux of the matter, which is that they want to jail me on charges of which I have already been cleared, charges which have already been found to be fabricated.

Open any criminal law textbook (I hope, Your Honour, you have done this a couple of times in your life) and you will see that the European Court of Human Rights is also part of the Russian judicial system. And its judgments are binding. And after going through all the necessary stages of the judicial process, I applied to the European Court. The European Court issued a ruling in which it set out in black and white that there was no case for me to answer. The charges, on account of which I am here in this strange cage, are completely fabricated. And what is more, Russia basically accepted the verdict. Half-heartedly, but I was even paid compensation in acknowledgement of the European Court’s ruling. Despite all this, my brother served 3.5 years in prison and I was under house arrest for a year. A week before my probation was due to end, they remanded me in custody, brought me here to Simonovsky court and, without my legal representative, forced a court appointed lawyer on me and extended my probation period for a further year.

Let’s do a bit of maths. In 2014 I was convicted and given 3.5 years’ probation, and now it’s 2021 and yet I am still being put on trial in this case. I have already been found not guilty, and there is no charge for me to answer. And all the same, with the stubbornness of a maniac, our state demands that I be jailed in this case. 

Why this case? There is certainly no shortage of criminal cases against me. Nevertheless, someone doesn’t want me to take a single step on the territory of our country, returning as a free man. From the moment I crossed the border I found myself a prisoner. We know who this person is, we know why this happened. The reason is the hatred and fear of one man who lives in a bunker. Because I have mortally insulted him just by the fact I survived after they tried to kill me on his orders.

(At this point the prosecutor tries to interrupt Navalny and reprimand him. “I don’t need your comments!” Navalny says. The judge asks Navalny to speak to the petition by the Federal Penitentiary Service which is under consideration. The politician replies he is ‘expressing his opinion on the petition in full compliance with the law’).

Let’s continue. I had mortally offended him by surviving thanks to some good people – the pilots and doctors. Then I offended him even more by not hiding and by living in a bunker smaller than his, and one I could afford. And then something very frightening happened. Not only did I survive and not get scared or hide. I actually took part in investigating my own poisoning. And we showed and proved that it was Putin himself, using the FSB, who carried out this attempted assassination. And I wasn’t the only one who was poisoned. People know this now and many more will find out. And this is what drives the thieving little man in his bunker crazy. Precisely this fact – that everything has been revealed.

There are no high ratings, no huge support, nothing like that. It turned out that to deal with a political opponent who has no access to television, no political party, you just try to kill him with chemical weapons. Of course, he is going crazy. Everyone has realised that he is just a little bureaucrat who was put in the presidential post absolutely by chance. He never participated in debates or in elections. And this is his only method of fighting – trying to kill people. No matter how much he pretends to be a great hand at geopolitics, a great world leader, his main grievance against me is that he will go down in history as a poisoner and nothing else. You know, there was Aleksandr the Liberator and Yaroslav the Wise. And we shall have Vladimir the Underpants Poisoner.

(The judge tries to interrupt Navalny, who in response says his words have a direct bearing on the case)

I am standing here, the police are guarding me, the National Guard are over there, half of Moscow is cordoned off. It is all because the little man in the bunker is going crazy. Because we have proved and shown that he is not dealing with geopolitics but is holding meetings where he decides how to steal politicians’ underpants, smear them with chemical weapons and in that way try to kill them.

The main point about this trial is not even whether I end up in prison or not. It is not difficult to put me in jail in this case or on some other charges. The main point is the reason why it is happening, and that is to frighten a vast number of people. This is how it works. You jail one person to frighten millions. We have 20 million people living below the poverty line, we have tens of millions with no future prospects whatever, tens of millions of people about whom they say, ‘Life is more or less OK in Moscow, but if you go 100 kilometres outside the city, it is just awful.’ And now everywhere in our country life is just awful, without any prospects, earning just 20,000 roubles.

And they keep silent, and they are trying to shut them up with show trials like these. To put this one person here in jail to frighten millions. Another person took to the streets to protest. Put five more in jail to frighten 15 million.

This is the main point I want to make. I hope people don’t take this trial as a sign they should be afraid. After all, this is not a demonstration of strength. I mean all this – the National Guard, this cage I am in. It is a demonstration of weakness, weakness pure and simple. You cannot jail millions or hundreds of thousands of people. And I hope that people will realise this.

And when they do realise it – and that time will come – all of this will fall apart. Because you can’t put the whole country in jail. Because all these people who have been deprived of prospects, deprived of a future, who live in such a rich country but get zero from the national wealth… Zero! We are only growing in terms of the number of our billionaires, everything else is going down. I sit in my cell and hear news reports about how the price of butter has gone up, the price of pasta has gone up, eggs have gone up. It’s 2021, the country is an exporter of oil and gas, and our whole country is talking about how pasta has become more expensive. You have deprived these people of prospects and you are trying to frighten them. I urge each and every one of you not to be afraid.

(The judge interrupts Navalny again and asks him to return to address the petition)

You say I didn’t say anything relevant to the petition. Everything I say is about the petition. And everything I am saying expresses my attitude to the show trial you are putting on.

So there you have it. There are times when lawlessness and arbitrariness are the very essence of a political system and that is terrible. But things can be worse. When lawlessness and arbitrariness dress themselves up in the uniform of a prosecutor or put on the robes of a judge. And when that happens, it is everyone’s duty to refuse to obey the laws dressed up in those robes. And it is everyone’s duty not to obey you, not to obey such laws.

(The judge interrupts Navalny and says this is not a rally)

This is not a rally, this is my speech. Be kind enough to listen to me. […] When arbitrariness and lawlessness put on your uniforms and pretend to be the law, it is the duty of every honest person to disobey you and to fight. And I am fighting as best I can and will continue to fight despite the fact I am now completely in the hands of people who love to smear everything with weapons’ grade chemicals, and probably none of them will give three kopecks for my life. But nevertheless, even now I say I will fight you and urge everyone else not to be afraid of you and to do everything to ensure that law prevails, not merely those who are dressed up in uniforms and robes.

And I salute all those who are fighting and who are not afraid, all honest people. I thank the staff of the Anti-Corruption Foundation who have been jailed, everyone else across the country who is not afraid and has taken to the streets, because they have the same rights as you do. Because our country belongs to them as much as it belongs to you, as much as to everyone else. We are all citizens and we demand a fair system of justice, fair treatment, participation in elections, a share of the national wealth. Yes, we demand all this.

There is something else I want to say. There are a lot of good things in Russia right now, and the best thing is the people who are not afraid, people who are fearless and speak out and will never hand the country over to a bunch of corrupt bureaucrats who decided to trade our Motherland for palaces, vineyards and water-discos.

I demand my immediate release, immediate freedom for myself and for all the others who have been jailed. I do not recognise this criminal prosecution. It is completely fabricated. It is not in accordance with the law. I demand my immediate release.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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