“You’re going to answer for all of it”: Ilya Yashin’s speech in court challenging his designation as a ‘foreign agent’
Ilya Yashin By David Krikheli (Wikipedia)

2 December

The day his suit challenging being deemed a “foreign agent” was rejected

 Source: The New Times

Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky Court rejected Ilya Yashin’s suit against the Justice Ministry, in which the politician was trying to dispute his status as a “foreign agent.”  Below is his speech in court. 

Citizens, judge and Justice Ministry representative! Respected audience! 

As you know, I was assigned the status of ‘foreign agent’ just a few days after my arrest in a criminal case involving my antiwar statements. The state has been branding its critics and political opponents in this way for more than a year, essentially equating them to enemies of the state.

But what does this term—’foreign agent’ —actually mean? The Justice Ministry explains that this is a citizen who accepts money to serve the interests of a foreign power. Let’s say that’s true. But what does this have to do with me? 

I’m a Russian oppositionist politician, and the special services have been closely following my activities for many years. The FSB [Federal Security Service], Prosecutor’s Office, and investigators have examined all my bookkeeping and every financial operation of mine under a microscope. Although they’ve tried very hard, they haven’t found a kopek from foreign governments. They can’t find one because there aren’t any. 

Eventually, the Justice Ministry admitted this, mumbling that even though foreign financing hadn’t been established, I’m a foreign agent anyway since I allegedly carry out my political activities in the interests of other countries. 

I say this is a bald-faced and insulting lie. The only country whose interests I defend and loyalty to which I maintain is Russia. And now I will explain what in fact the national interests of my Homeland consist of and where my disagreements with the Kremlin’s thieving old men lie. 

First, Russia has an interest in a peaceful sky over its head and neighbourly relations with other countries. Openness and predictability will make our country richer, safer, and freer and will guarantee its steady development. Whereas bellicose isolation and aggression will, on the contrary, lead us to poverty, backwardness, and human losses. 

Second, Russia has an interest in a fair economy delivered from corruption. Putin has created a state model where a handful of oligarchs swim in luxury and prominent officials enjoy privileges—while 20 million Russians live below the poverty line. I believe that a country’s riches should work for the good of the whole society. I’m ashamed when we crowdfund for a child’s operation while another of the president’s friends buys another yacht. 

Third, Russia has an interest in preserving its human capital. The state should create conditions that make citizens want to live, work, and raise their children here. Instead, Putin has unleashed war and sent our men to slaughter, provoking the mass emigration of Russians who do not want to kill or be killed. Hundreds of thousands of marvelous specialists, scholars, businessmen, and creative people are emigrating. In the countries they choose for their new home, the economy starts to rise thanks to their work. I don’t understand why we don’t value our own talents and don’t safeguard our people. 

And now your attention: a question. What part of what I’ve said attests to my working in the interests of any foreign power? Where does the Justice Ministry get the gall to label someone who is sitting in prison and literally paying with his personal freedom for the right to live and work in Russia a foreign agent? 

Shouldn’t you be searching for real foreign agents, gentlemen of the Justice Ministry? 

In the State Duma, for example, where greasy-faced loudmouths holler about love for the Homeland but buy houses in Europe and sent their own kids to the United States a long time ago. 

In the Cabinet of Ministers, for example, where they talk about the development of the country’s industry but have spirited the lion’s share of our national reserves abroad and have kept them there since the war began. 

In the Kremlin, for example, where they are turning our country into a raw materials appanage of China, selling our oil, gas, timber, coal, and land cheap to our ‘honoured Eastern partners.’ 

Remember this: being a patriot means being honest to your own country and people. I speak the truth. And for this truth I’ve been put in prison. And you are liars and traitors who are picking the Homeland’s pockets and depriving us all of a future. 

But you’re going to answer for all of it.

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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