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‘Unscrupulous evil’ – as Alexei Navalny faces 20 more years in jail, he urges others to fight Russian authorities

‘Unscrupulous evil’ – as Alexei Navalny faces 20 more years in jail, he urges others to fight Russian authorities
Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link from his penal colony during a hearing about his right to correspond while in jail, at the Russian Supreme court in Moscow, Russia, 22 June 2023. EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

In his speech – published here in English – jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny explains why ‘there will be no justice’ in the court in which he stands – ‘for me or anyone else’.

A Russian prosecutor is seeking to sentence Alexei Navalny to 20 years in a special regime colony on charges of “extremism.” The prosecutor also requested that the second defendant in the case, Daniel Kholodny, be sentenced to 10 years in a general regime colony. The proceedings took place behind closed doors, and journalists and observers were not permitted in the courtroom. The verdict will be announced on 4 August 2023. 

Meduza is publishing Navalny’s full courtroom speech in English:

Everyone in Russia knows that he who seeks justice in court is completely defenceless. Such a person should abandon all hope. After all, if their case has reached the courts, then there is no power behind that person. Because in a country ruled by a criminal, disputes are resolved by bargaining, authority, bribery, deceit, betrayal and other real-life mechanisms, not by some kind of law.

This was brilliantly illustrated the other day when those who were declared turncoats and traitors to the Motherland killed several officers of the Russian army right before the astonished eyes of the whole of Russia in the morning, and by lunchtime agreed on something with someone and went home, dividing suitcases full of money among themselves. No, not metal briefcases, but actual suitcases. They even showed them on television.

The reliance on intellect without conscience is precisely what now lies at the core of the Russian state.

Law and justice was once again reminded of its place in Russia. And this place is not honourable at all. You definitely won’t find it in court.

In general, the courts have long been transformed into a place where citizens can merely make a speech without (and this phrase is repeated hundreds of times in my indictment) “obtaining the consent of the state authorities”. However, for the especially cunning, who abuse the opportunities for court debate and speech, they first invented a closed trial, and then a closed trial on the prison grounds.

Question of humanity

Nevertheless, I must take every opportunity to speak out, and speaking now before an audience of 18 people, seven of which are wearing black masks on their heads that cover their face, I wish not only to explain why I continue to fight the unscrupulous evil that calls itself “the state authorities of the Russian Federation”, but also to urge you to do so along with me.

Alexei Navalny courtroom speech

Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya and Leonid Volkov, chief of staff for Navalny and chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, during the Sakharov Community event at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on 28 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Stephanie Lecoq)

I mean, why not? Maybe you put on these masks because you are afraid of something human, something you have inside you that might reflect on your face if it’s not covered by a balaclava? For example, the prison guard standing behind me right now should by virtue of his position know what kind of trials I have ahead of me. So I tell him about another criminal case against me and the upcoming trial, about the new term that I am facing. Every time he nods his head, closes his eyes, and says: “I don’t understand you, and I never will.” I have to at least try to explain it to him.

The question of how to act is the central question of humanity. After all, everything around us is so complicated and incomprehensible. People have searched high and low for the formula of doing the right thing, for something to base the right decisions on.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Navalny’ – the tragic and inspiring story of a man who stood up to Putin

I really like the wording of our compatriot, Doctor of Philological Sciences, Professor Yuri Lotman. Speaking to students, he once said: “A man always finds himself in an unforeseeable situation. And then he has two legs to rest on: conscience and intellect.”

This is a very wise thought, as it seems to me. Any person should rest on both of these legs.

To rely only on one’s conscience is intuitively correct. But an abstract morality that does not take into account human nature and the real world will degenerate either into stupidity or atrocity, as it has happened more than once before.

You have one, God-given life, and this is what you choose to spend it on? Putting robes on your shoulders and black masks on your heads to protect those who rob you?

But the reliance on intellect without conscience is precisely what now lies at the core of the Russian state. Initially, this idea seemed logical to the elites. Using oil, gas and other resources, we will build an unscrupulous but cunning, modern, rational, ruthless state. We will become richer than the tsars of the past. We have so much oil that even the common folk will get something from it. By exploiting this world of contradictions and the vulnerability of democracy, we will become leaders, and everyone will respect us. And if not respect, then at least fear.

And yet the same thing happens as everywhere else. The intellect, unconstrained by conscience, whispers: snatch, steal. If you are stronger, your interests are always more important than the rights of others.

Unwilling to rest on the foot of conscience, my Russia took a few big leaps, pushing everyone around, but then slipped and collapsed with a crash, destroying everything around it. And now it is floundering in a pool of either mud or blood, with broken bones and the poor, robbed population, surrounded by the tens of thousands of victims of the most stupid and senseless war of the XXI century.

Of course, sooner or later, it will rise again. And it is up to us to determine what it will rest on in the future.

Wise and right to fight

In my opinion, I am acting in a consistent manner, without any drama.

I love Russia. My intellect tells me that living in a free and prosperous country is better than living in a corrupt and destitute one. And as I stand here looking at this court, my conscience tells me that there will be no justice in such a court for me or anyone else. A country without fair courts will never be prosperous. So my intellect raises its voice again and says it would be wise and right for me to fight for an independent court, for fair elections, and against corruption, because then I would reach my goal and be able to live in my free, prosperous Russia.

Alexei Navalny courtroom speech

Ivan Zhdanov, a Russian politician and lawyer and director of the Alexei Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, in a replica of Navalny’s jail cell installed on the Place des Nations in front of the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on 10 June 2023. According to the organisers, the makeshift cell is meant to show the conditions in which critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin are being held. Navalny has been detained in Russia since 17 January 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Martial Trezzini)

It may seem to you now that I am crazy, but you are all normal – after all, one cannot swim against the current. But in my opinion, it’s you who are crazy. You have one, God-given life, and this is what you choose to spend it on? Putting robes on your shoulders and black masks on your heads to protect those who rob you? To help someone who already has 10 palaces to build an 11th?

In order for a new person to come into the world, two people must agree in advance that they will make some sacrifices. This new person will have to be born in agony, and then they will have to spend sleepless nights with him. Then they will have to get a dog for that new person. Then walk that dog.

Likewise, in order for a new, free, rich country to be born, it has to have parents. Those who want it. Those who expect it and are willing to make some sacrifices for its birth, knowing that it will be worth it. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to go to prison. It’s more of a lottery, and that ticket was drawn by me. But everyone has to make some kind of sacrifice, make some kind of effort.

I am accused of inciting hatred against representatives of the government and security services, judges, and members of the United Russia party. But no, I am not inciting hatred. I merely remember that every person has two legs: conscience and intellect. And when you’re tired of slipping under this regime, splitting your forehead and your future, when you finally realise that the rejection of conscience will eventually lead to the disappearance of intellect, then maybe you will stand on both of the legs on which every man should stand, and we will be able to bring the beautiful Russia of the future closer together. DM/Meduza

First published by Meduza.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • marion henman says:

    Alexei Navalny is astonishing in his bravery. He lives by his high and commendable principals. We need more men/women like this in the world, but at what cost.

    • Paddy Ross says:

      And the ANC sides with the regime that perpetuates this nightmarish ‘1984’ life that Navalny describes at the expense of citizens of Ukraine who have been allowed to choose the form of government that they prefer. The sooner Putin relinquishes power in Russia, voluntarily or otherwise, the better it will be for the rest of this world in which we live.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    It surprises me that they let Navalny speak out like that (it must be something that they cannot avoid), but it will most likely not be published.

  • Eddie Maulson says:

    Alexei Navalny a reincarnation of Nelson Mandela!

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