Alexey Navalny’s Closing Statement

July 5, 2013
Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Aleksei Navalny looks on surrounded by journalists after arriving for a court hearing in the city of Kirov April 17, 2013. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

[Today, opposition leader Alexey Navalny made his closing statement at his trial for “embezzlement.” The defense was not allowed to call any witnesses and comments made before the trial began by the presiding judge and officials from the Investigative Committee characterized his guilt as a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, Navalny remained defiant in the face of a lengthy prison sentence. Here is the statement in its entirety. — Ed.]

Well, my respected friends, our wonderful court session seems like a television series, and in some places like a television series that, along with the trial, is coming to an end. I am not trying to offend the court by calling it a television series because it really is like a television series; hardly any of us has ever been present at such an event or will ever be present at such an event. All the more so because all of us, and myself included, all understand perfectly well that one of the main purposes of all this trial was in fact the task of a television serial, so to make it so that on the news, on the federal channels, someone could always tell the story, to mention my name, and in this context say here’s the guy who stole the entire forest of Kirov Region, that crook himself, as if that would supposedly change anything about those people about whom I write that they really are crooks, those who really steal billions from all of us who have seized power in this country.

When I speak of a series, I myself am still trying to define this genre — is it rather a comedy or a drama? Most likely I would treat this all more ironically myself if there weren’t other people who were ascribing to this entire proceedings the nature of a drama. Of course, first of all, standing here, I would like to apologize to Pyotr Ofitserov and my family for the fact that they had to go through this because of me; they became people who were completely accidentally caught up in this and became hostages, and are now going through all this, because it was necessary to attach somebody to me, it was impossible to put just some person in jail; they needed an entrepreneur, and that entrepreneur turned out to be Pyotr Ofitserov, so I would like to appeal to the court, and to the prosecution, with a request, an ordinary request: well, that’s enough tormenting this unfortunate man, and that’s enough, torturing his family, because everyone understands perfectly well that Ofitserov wound up here completely accidentally. The fact that — it’s simply absurd, the very request to put that man in jail for five years. Why five years? What million rubles? One quarter of his apartment in Ochakovo was seized. Not only do you want to jail the father and only breadwinner for five children, what, you want his children to be thrown out on the street? Therefore, I call on you, even within the framework of obviously — excuse me, an obvious political order, a political trial– even so, not to take the steps that even so, are a loss even within the context of this political order. Ofitserov does not have to be put in jail within the framework of that order. So I urge everyone to remember that. The goal can be achieved without that.

As for what I can say for myself, I can say that I’m in this position, understanding why; I can look into the eyes of any person with complete honesty — my attorney, the prosecutor, you, the secretary of the court, this camera, and in general any person in this room and anyone looking at this broadcast from this room, because I know that every person who watches this broadcast and follows the materials of the case will come up to me and say, “Alexey, you’re not guilty” in this case and in all the other cases which are constantly fabricated against me.

Our respected prosecutor today uttered a simply brilliant phrase which I think could become perhaps the headline for this trial, “Let’s leave the world of fantasies and fairy tales.” I would like to appeal from this place to those who ordered this trial. Let us leave the world of fantasies and fairy tales. If someone thinks that I or my colleagues will cease that activity that we have been doing — through this trial, or through the trials in the Bolotnaya Square case, or through other trials that are going on all over the country, then they are deeply mistaken. Perhaps someone thinks this isn’t the best place for me, from here to place conditions, or warn or speak of some plans of mine, but I believe no, I believe that this is on the whole the best place I could find for speaking of my plans, in order to warn everyone, and in order to put my conditions.

So, I state that I and my colleagues are doing everything so as to destroy that feudal order that is being made in Russia. To destroy the system of power under which 83 percent of the national wealth belongs to a half percent of the population. In that sense, I’m very glad that this trial is underway here in Kirov Region where it is very easy to leave the world of fantasies and fairy tales. Because when you’re in Kirov, or Kumyon or Omutninsk, you see there is no world of fantasies and fairy tales at all. There’s 15 years of an influx of an enormous amount of oil and gas money — but what has been invested for residents? Did any of us get the best access to health care? To educational infrastructure? To new housing? Why? What did we get, all of us? And those who are on this side of the defendants’ bench and those on  the opposite side of the defendant’s bench? What did we get from all those people? Nothing.

We only got one thing. You know, there’s the only product that has become more accessible to the public since Soviet times. It’s vodka. For purchase ability, only vodka has become accessible. So all of us, the citizens of this country, are guaranteed only degradation and drunkenness. And those people who build this feudal system of theirs, on the fact they have seized power, all those FSB generals have got their children into the banks. All those United Russia deputies have sent their relatives to Switzerland somewhere. They’ve opened foreign bank accounts there. Entire villages in Marbella belong to United Russia members. We will destroy that feudal system which is robbing all of you here. Despite the fact that you’ve put me on the defendant’s bench, I and my colleagues will defend you in fact, you understand, from all of that. Living in Omutninsk, Kumyon, Kirov, Vladivostok and all the rest.

If you think that I will hear this threat of six years and will run away somewhere abroad or will go into hiding somewhere, you are very deeply mistaken. I cannot run away from myself anywhere. I have no other way out and I don’t want to be involved in anything else. I want to be involved in helping the residents of my country. To work for all those people who are my fellow citizens.

I believe that not a single one of us has the right now to neutrality. Not one of us has the right to shrink from what would make the world better. We simply don’t have the right to that. Because each time one of us says, “Let me stand a bit to the side here and it will all pass by me, I’ll just wait it out,” he is simply helping anew that repulsive feudal order that sits like a spider in that Kremlin. Specifically, the 100 families that suck up everything from all over Russia, they help them anew to lower the Russian people to the path of degradation and drunkenness and to extract and drag out of here all our national wealth.

I would like to conclude my speech by calling on all those people who are like me, who worked with me, those who want to work with me, not to fear doing that. Even so, there are more of us. There are hundreds of thousands of us and millions. A funny thing is happening, really, where these 100 people, due to television, and thanks to inertia and public apathy have seized power. But such a thing can’t be forever. Not in a country of 140 million, gigantic, the largest in the world, one of  the most wealthy in the world, would subordinate itself to some bunch of some kind of freaks who are simply nobodies. They aren’t even any kind of oligarchs, who through, I don’t know, cunning or intelligence or so on created capital. These are simply some insignificant former Komsomol members; then they became democrats; now they have become some kind of patriots and have grabbed everything. It is a misunderstanding. This misunderstanding will be corrected by our work. Thank you very much.