“I know that in the evening you will take off your robe and go shopping — maybe to the same store where my mom buys cottage cheese,” the defendant told the judge, pointing out the gap between the stolen power machinery and individual human destinies. Facebook photo of Ilya Yashin
After spending five months in pre-trial detention, Ilya Yashin was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison by the Mešchansky Court in Moscow. He was punished for publishing a video on his YouTube channel in which he talked about the murders of civilians in Buč. He delivered his closing argument on December 5, four days before the sentencing.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the phrase “the last word of the accused” sounds rather grim. It’s as if the accused’s mouth was sewn shut after the trial was over and he was forbidden to speak forever. We all know that’s what it’s all about. They isolate me from society because they want me to keep quiet.
Our parliament has long since ceased to be a place of discussion, and now even the whole of Russia is forced to tacitly agree to any steps taken by the government. I promise I will never put up with it as long as I live. My mission is to speak the truth. I said it in squares, in television studios, as a representative in the stands. I will not deny the truth even behind bars. After all, as the classic says: “A lie is the religion of slaves, and only truth is the god of a free man.”
I would like to address the court at the beginning of my speech. Your Honor, I appreciate the manner in which the trial was conducted. You conducted the process in an open and transparent manner, you did not prevent me from speaking or my lawyers from working. Actually, it’s as if you didn’t do anything special — after all, this is how the courts should work in any normal country — but in the incinerator of the Russian judiciary, such behavior looks like something unusually alive. Trust me I appreciate it.
I’ll tell you straight, Oxana Ivanovna, that you yourself make an unusual impression. I noticed with what interest you listen to the prosecutor and defense attorneys, how you react to my words, how you doubt and think. For the state power, you are just a cog in the system, but I see you as a living person. I know that in the evening you will take off your robe and go shopping — perhaps to the same store where my mother buys cottage cheese.
I have no doubt that we share the same concerns. Surely, you are as shaken by the war as I am, and you pray that this horror will end as soon as possible. You know, Oxana Ivanovna, for many years I have followed the principle — do what you must and be what you want. When the fighting started, I didn’t doubt for a second what I had to do. It hurts me physically to know how many people die in war, how many lives have been ruined, how many families have lost their homes. I can’t accept that. And I swear I don’t regret anything.
I could have run away, I could have been silent. But I did what I had to do. Because it is better to spend ten years behind bars and remain an honest person than to burn with shame and remain silent while the state sheds blood in your name.
Of course, Your Honor, I’m not expecting a miracle here. You know I’m not guilty — but I do know how much pressure the system puts on you. Therefore, you will probably be forced to pass judgment on my guilt. However, I do not bear any grudge against you and wish you no harm. However, try to do your best to avoid injustice. Remember that your decision does not only depend on my fate — it is a judgment on the part of our society that wants to live in peace and civilized. Above that part of society to which you may also belong, Oxana Ivanovna.
I would like to take this opportunity to address Vladimir Putin as well. To the man who is responsible for the carnage of war, the man who signed the “Wartime Censorship” Act and whose will I am in prison.
Vladimir Vladimirovich! Looking at the consequences of this terrible war, you probably understand for yourself what a terrible mistake you made on February 24. They don’t welcome our army with flowers. They call us executioners and occupiers. Your name is absolutely associated with death and destruction in Ukraine. You have caused immense suffering to the Ukrainian people, who will probably never forgive the Russians.
But you are waging a war not only against Ukrainians, but also against your fellow citizens. You are sending hundreds of thousands of Russians into the hell of fighting, many of whom will never return and be nothing but dust. Many become cripples or go mad from what they have seen and experienced. To you, it’s just a loss statistic, just numbers in tables. For many families, however, it is the unbearable pain of losing husbands, fathers and sons.
You are driving the Russians out of your home. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have already left their homeland because they do not want to kill and be killed. People are running away from you, Mr. President. Don’t you see it?
You are also undermining the foundations of our economic security. By orienting industry towards war, you are dragging our country back into the past. Tanks and weapons have once again become a priority, and our reality is once again poverty and lawlessness. Have you forgotten that such policies have brought our country to ruin before?
Although my words will sound like the voice of one calling in the desert, I urge you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to put a stop to all this immediately. It is necessary to recognize that the policy towards Ukraine was wrong, withdraw the troops from its territory and proceed to a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Remember that every day means new sacrifices. Enough!
Ilja Yashin: Prison will end one day, but my self-respect will remain
In conclusion, I would like to address those who have followed the entire process, supported me for months and are anxiously awaiting the verdict. Friends, whatever the court decides, however harsh the sentence may be, it must not break you. I understand how difficult it is for you, how you feel helpless and hopeless. However, you must not give up.
Please do not despair and do not forget our country. She is worth fighting for. Be brave, stand firm in the face of evil and defend yourself against it. Stand up to him in your streets and in your cities. And above all, stand up for each other. There are many more of us than meets the eye — together we are a formidable force.
Don’t worry about me. I promise that I will bear all the tests, I will not complain and I will bear the punishment with dignity. Please promise me that you will keep your optimism and not lose your smile. Because they win at the exact moment we lose the ability to enjoy life.
Believe me, Russia will be free and happy!
Ilya Valerijevic Jašin’s closing speech published on Ilya Yashin’s Telegram channel translated by JITKA KOMENDOVÁ.
Source: Deník referendum by denikreferendum.cz.
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