Ilya Yashin: I will fight tyranny.
Photo: Ilya Yashin’s Twitter account

20 February 2024

Source: Twitter

News reaches my prison camp barrack slowly, so I only learned of Aleksei Navalny’s death yesterday. It’s hard to convey my shock. It’s hard to collect my thoughts. The pain and horror are unbearable. 

And yet I’m not going to be silent. I’m going to say what I think is important. 

For me the question isn’t what happened to Navalny. I have no doubt he was killed. For three years Aleksei was closely monitored by the security forces, which in 2020 had already organized a failed assassination against him. Now they’ve followed through. 

For me the question isn’t who killed him. I have no doubt it was Putin. He’s a war criminal. Navalny was his key opponent in Russia and aroused hatred in the Kremlin. Putin had both motive and opportunity. I’m convinced he ordered him killed. 

I understand how state propaganda is going to start manipulating public opinion. They’ll say that Navalny’s death wasn’t to the president’s advantage, that killing him a month before elections is illogical, that Putin is focused on global politics and doesn’t have time to be thinking about some zek. . . . Utter nonsense, reject it out of hand. After Aleksei’s poisoning in 2020, the propaganda defended Putin with the argument that “if he’d wanted to kill him he would have.” That’s all true. He wanted to and he did. He didn’t just kill him, he killed him blatantly. Specially on the eve of elections so that no one after the fact would have any doubt as to Putin’s involvement. He killed Prigozhin just as blatantly—so no one would have any doubt. 

In Putin’s understanding, this is exactly how to assert power: with murders, cruelty, and demonstrative vengeance. This is not the thinking of a state figure. This is the thinking of a gang leader. So let’s honestly admit it. Putin is the ringleader of a mafioso structure that has merged with our state. He lacks any moral or legal limitations. He holds people in fear, and those who aren’t afraid he imprisons and destroys. 

That’s why Boris Nemtsov was shot. That’s why Aleksei Navalny was killed. For three years in the penal colony they tortured him with punishment cells and tried to break him and make him beg for mercy. It didn’t work, so they took his life. 

The confrontation between Navalny and Putin demonstrated the scale of both individuals. Aleksei will go down in history as a man of exceptional courage who persisted for what he believed in. Persisted, scorning fear and death. Persisted with a smile and his head held high. And died a hero. 

Putin will always be a little man who acquired tremendous power by accident. Someone who hides in a bunker, kills on the quiet, and makes millions of people hostage to his complexes. But I don’t wish him dead. I dream of him answering for his crimes before the earthly and not only the heavenly court. 

Aleksei Navalny was my friend. As was Boris Nemtsov. We had common cause and devoted our lives to Russia becoming peaceful, free, and happy. Now both my friends are dead. I feel a black void inside. And, of course, I understand my own risks. I’m behind bars, my life is in Putin’s hands, and it is in danger. But I will keep on keeping on. 

Standing over Boris’s body in February 2015, I vowed to myself not to be afraid, not to surrender, and not to flee. Nine years later, mourning Aleksei, I can only repeat that vow. As long as my heart beats in my chest, I will fight tyranny. 

As long as I live, I will not fear evil. As long as I breathe, I will be with my people. I swear. 

Aleksei, rest in peace, brother. 

Yulia, Liudmila Ivanovna, Anatoly Ivanovich, Oleg, Dasha, Zakhar, be strong. 

I am with you.

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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