14 July 2022
Source: Witnesses Against War
Witnesses Against War is an anonymous international group of journalists, writers, historians and translators, who live in Moscow and London. For reasons of security, their project is anonymous. In addition to the above websiste, you can also find them on Instagram and Telegram.
Ilya Yashin is a Russian dissident, politician and public figure, a long-term opponent of Putin’s regime, a municipal deputy, the founder of the democratic movements Solidarity and the People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS), a long-term ally of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was killed in 2015 . At the end of June this year, he was detained and sentenced to a two-week administrative arrest on the trumped up pretext of allegedly resisting the police, and yesterday, when he was supposed to be released, it became known that a criminal case had been initiated against him under a new criminal article, for allegedly “discrediting” the Russian army. Since February 24, a number of repressive laws with vague wording have been adopted in the Russian Federation, as a result of which absolutely anyone who takes an anti-war position can be arrested, especially such a public politician as Ilya Yashin, one of the few remaining dissenting voices in Russia since the start of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, who decided not to leave the country on principle. Dozens of criminal cases have already been initiated under these new repressive articles, that contradict the constitution; several people have received actual prison sentences merely for calling the so-called “special operation” a war, and talking about the war crimes of Putin’s army in Ukraine. From our point of view, the intensification of repressions is a sign of the growing weakness of the Putin regime, and is happening against the backdrop of an upcoming defeat in the war, an attempt to deprive the imminent anti-Putin and anti-war protests of a leader, in the hope that the crowds, lacking strong, charismatic, well-known leaders, will not be able to organise themselves on their own. This is his statement from the courtroom yesterday.
“So, the court sent me to prison for anti-war statements.
Let’s be frank: since February 24, I have known perfectly well that I would be arrested. Everyone understood this. The agents yesterday in a “confidential conversation” asked several times: “Well, explain – why didn’t you leave? You’ve had four months of freedom. It would have been easier for everyone if you’d left town…”
Okay, I’ll explain.
I don’t want it to be easier for THEM. I don’t want to run away and hide from those I despise. I do not want to grovel and lower my gaze before war criminals.
The legal application for my detention states: “with his statements, Yashin brought harm to Russia’s interests…”
With my statements, I defended Russia. Rather its interests are being harmed by Putin, who dragged my motherland into war, has created a dictatorship of thieves and intimidates everyone who does not agree with him.
To escape this hopelessness, we have to pay our own price. Nemtsov paid with his life, hundreds of people right now are paying with their personal freedom.
When the war began, I promised that I would not run away and that I would loudly speak the truth for as long as I could. And when they arrest me, I will receive this blow with dignity. I am keeping my word.
Don’t worry about me, friends. And I beg you, don’t allow yourselves to be intimidated.
I am not afraid – and you need not be afraid.
No to war”.
Editor’s note: On 9 December 2022, a court in Russia sentenced Ilya Yashin to eight and a half years in prison on charges of disseminating information ”known to be false’ for denouncing war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, said at the time:
“Heavy fines, imprisonment, loss of livelihood, harassment, and physical attacks are all being used to silence those who protest or speak out against the war of aggression against Ukraine. In today’s Russia, telling the truth about human rights violations has literally been made a crime. Considerable personal risk has never deterred Ilya Yashin from speaking truth to power. As many others, he could not stay silent about the Russian forces’ killing of civilians in Bucha. Now he’s paying a high price for speaking out, facing eight and half years behind bars.”Amnesty International