On Tuesday, May 24th, the Moscow City Court upheld the decision of the Lefortovo District Court on the case of Alexei Navalny. It was a trumped-up charge of fraud and contempt of court against him. Alexei was sentenced to nine years in a maximum-security penal colony. Read (and listen to) the speech he gave at yesterday’s hearing — the video comes with English subtitles.
— Thank you very much. Honorable court, are you going to interrupt me? I would like to make it clear, because I am usually interrupted during my last word. Am I not hearing you, or are you just silent?
— Mr. Navalny, we are listening to you very carefully.
— Thank you very much. To be honest, I even said in the last court session that I don’t want to say any more last words, I am fed up with all those last words. I’ve made some estimates: I returned to Moscow on January 17, I was arrested immediately, and I’ve been speaking in court ever since. This is my sixth or seventh last word, this is slowly getting ridiculous. While it is, of course, a very good characterization of what is happening in our country, it is nevertheless funny when a man gives his seventh last word in a year and a half. But during my last “last word” a very inspiring thing happened to me, which shows that you do need to say them after all.
How was our court session arranged? There was an auditorium here, in my jail, and the judge, the defense, the prosecutor, and the court technician all sat there in the same way. But here’s the thing: you’re all very cunning, your government is very cunning and resourceful. On the day I was giving my last word, the court’s technical specialist was not here. But our major, who deals with all sorts of technical stuff here — they dressed him up in civilian clothes and put him in the position of the court’s technical secretary. And what did he do? When I was giving my last word, every time I said the word “war,” he would press a button, and I could see it, because on the screen in front of me there was just a red crossed out microphone icon, which meant that the microphone had been turned off. And he sat there so happy, and the judge was happy, and your whole system was terribly happy that you had a button that you could push so that the audience, the journalists and everyone else would not hear what I was going to say after the word “war.”
Of course, that enraged me terribly. You’re planning your speech, saying some important things, but then they push the button with that smirk and you can’t be heard. Of course, it pissed me off. But, on the other hand, after some thinking, I realized that there was also an uplifting part about this. Because you have everything: you’ve seized power in the country, you have television and all these corrupt journalists — you have everything, and yet you’re afraid of what some convict will say to you. You’re so afraid that you’ve assigned a special officer, dressed as a civilian, to press this very button. You are so terrified of these words, any words of truth in general, that they certainly must be spoken. That’s what I constantly urge everyone else to do, and I myself engage in it as much as possible.
I’d like to make a remark about the honorable court. I have nothing against you personally. I am not acquainted with you. You’re probably good people, are great with kids, and probably even got straight A’s at universities, especially in criminal procedure. But when I say “you,” I am of course referring to the court, but I’m also referring to the entire regime: I mean Putin, his Security Council of old senile fools, the State Duma, which is full of crooks, the Federation Council, which is full of elderly crooks, your entire government. You are passing sentence on me in the name of the Russian Federation, so when I am addressing you, I am addressing that very same Russian Federation, which has been seized by those very crooks, thieves and, of course, murderers, at this very present time.
My sentence suggests that I have offended and disrespected the court. But you know perfectly well that no one in Russia respects the court. It is basically a body that does not have the slightest respect anywhere. People are really afraid of it, because some people in black suits, without any legal grounds, like in my case and the cases of many other people, can always send you to jail, and that’s why they’re afraid of them. But no one respects the Russian court, and I really don’t respect it.
But this article about insulting the court is unscientific. If there were an article about contempt for the court and this government, it would suit me perfectly, because I despise your court, I despise your system, and I despise your government. And most importantly, I’m not afraid of this system, which I think is my actual crime in your eyes. I am not afraid of this system. Certainly, I don’t want to sit in this cage instead of doing some useful things and watching my children grow up. But man is not given life to be afraid of the crazy old man in a bunker and this system he has built. That’s why I’m not afraid of you! And, again, I urge everyone else not to be afraid. After all, what are they gonna do to you? They may put you in a cell. But your whole system is based on fear, so one must not be afraid of you. To be afraid of you is a crime against one’s own future, a crime against one’s children, a crime against one’s people.
That’s why it’s important now... Because when I turn on the TV, they show me how someone is killing Russians, oppressing Russians, or doing something else to Russians. But it is you, your system, your Putin and your officials who are the real enemies of Russia right now, traitors to the Russian people and killers of the Russian people in the literal sense. No one has killed more Russian people in recent years than your Putin.
— Mr. Navalny, please return to the subject of judicial review. You are appealing the final judgment of the Lefortovo District Court.
— That’s exactly what I was doing. That’s why I clarified: please, don’t become the button that tries to shut me up. The CPC does not regulate what I say in my last word. I’m talking about the court, I’m talking about the sentence, I’m talking about the grounds upon which I was sentenced — and I’m not the only one who gets such absurd sentences, there are others like me.
If you want me to get closer to the point, fine. You don’t like it when I talk about the war — then I’ll use this current war, which is a hundred times more important than my sentence, as a metaphor for your courts and your trials. Because this war, just like your courts, is completely, one hundred percent built on extremely blatant lies. There’s not even one word of truth in this war, just like there is not a single word of truth in the verdict. I mean, I watch TV here all day long, that’s actually an important part of my punishment — I have to watch TV all the time. And a few months ago, three months in a row, every report, every story, every newscast said: what nonsense, we would never invade Ukraine! It can’t be true! It’s all American lies.
— Mr. Navalny, the subject of our judicial review is the verdict of the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow from March 22, 2022. We are listening to your disagreement with the final judicial act issued by the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow.
— Exactly. You just, you know... It’s a court appearance, after all. Look, there’s a portrait hanging on the wall to your right. I can’t see who it is. It’s probably a respected lawyer. As far as I remember from my time sitting in the “aquarium”, there are some portraits hanging on the left side as well, and those people were mostly famous for not just muttering into a microphone, but for saying some important things, making speeches in court. And that’s exactly what I’m doing now. I’m giving a speech in your court, and I am indeed using the war as a metaphor for my court sentence. I’m using something big to describe something small, but you can have it the other way around. So I ask you, even though you are terribly afraid that I will say something wrong, not to use that very button, because you can address your complaints about what I’m saying here to the person who instructed you to do it. So you can just stop me and turn me off, but I’m still going to say everything I wanted to say.
Anyway. Months of lying, just months. And then all of a sudden they put the troops in — and just forgot about it, you know? They have the memory of a goldfish. And your government is trying to make our entire population, our entire nation be like a goldfish, which includes forgetting about court trials, the laws you change every day, forgetting that there was a law that prohibited me from running in elections, the “Navalny law”. This is all an absolute lie. All the facts that are given in the verdict are just as untrue as all the facts that the warmongers use, or vice versa. When I hear about NATO on TV I just want to laugh, because I am not a goldfish, I remember how a NATO base was opened in the city of Ulyanovsk in 2013 and the local governor was telling everyone how good it is that we are opening a NATO base here for their operations in Afghanistan, because it is so cool, because it will give us jobs and NATO is very friendly towards us. And you know who else was very much in favor of the NATO base? Dmitry Rogozin. You must know this person. And now these people are trying to prove to us that we have to make a bloodbath in order to oppose NATO. At the same time, Finland and Sweden are joining NATO, and this is far from good. And I say this because it is, of course, very defining for everything that happens in Russia, including the Russian judicial system. Because there’s blatant lying in every court. Ignoring what was said yesterday at the drop of a hat, as if it had never been said. You all do volte-face not just frequently, but constantly. Our government, our courts and Putin himself constantly need to do volte-face to make people forget about their most recent lies.
— Alexei Anatolievich, the subject of our judicial review is the verdict of the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow. In your last word, we are listening to your judgment considering your disagreement with your conviction, with the verdict of the Lefortovo District Court of the city of Moscow. Please return to the subject of judicial review on appeal.
— First of all, the subject review is indeed the verdict of the Lefortovo District Court and the reasons why such a verdict was rendered. And you know very well the reasons why your trial is taking place. It’s because there are crazy rich people in power in Russia right now, and they have started a war, among other things, in order to hold trials in prisons, because no one will pay attention to this against the backdrop of the war. So, honorable court, your job has its benefits — immunity and untouchability, a large salary, an apartment in Moscow. But there are also probably some downsides to your job. In particular, if you got unlucky enough to end up reading out my verdict, you will have to listen to me, please excuse me for that. If you don’t want to listen to me, you can just turn me off and thereby make another procedural error. Just a little bit more, please bear with me.
What I mean to say is that your trials, including those against me, are pointless. What are you trying to achieve with them? Do you want to gain some kind of control? You will only achieve short-term control. Do you want to stop Russia’s progress, do you want to fight the coming generation? What is it that you want to do? You might intimidate someone in the short term, you will certainly bankrupt some people now, you will break a lot of fortunes, but in general, what you are doing, what your people are doing, is just historical nonsense, and you will surely all suffer a historic defeat. Just like you will suffer a historic defeat in this stupid war that you started, that your Putin started, because it has no purpose and no meaning.
I don’t even know why you are waging it. What are we waging this war for? To get them to do what? We just took a nation of forty million people, declared that they are nazis and started bombing them. What do they have to do to be left alone? Imagine the situation: a man lives in the city of Kharkiv, for example a judge, a judge in the city of Kharkiv — a million-strong city, a huge city. He lives in a big city and works perfectly well as a judge, he is going to take his child to the kindergarten in the morning, and then go judge somebody. And one day, for example on February 24th, he is declared a Nazi, a rocket flies into his house and kills his child, and he runs around like a lunatic, not understanding what he needs to do to get you and your government off his back. And I, of course, among other things, am ready to sit here in prison in order to prove to the world and, most importantly, to myself, that not everyone in Russia is so crazy, deranged, perverted and bloodthirsty that they are ready to kill others and get killed themselves for some unknown reason. Do you know that here, in the Vladimir Oblast...
— Mr Navalny, we have to bring you back to the subject of the judicial review and remind you that we are listening to your arguments and your disagreement with the court verdict, which was reinstated on March 22, 2022. You were convicted and found guilty of four felonies under Article 159, Part 4 of the Criminal Code and Article 297 of the Criminal Code. Please return to those judgments and explain what exactly you disagree with in the court’s sentence.
— Honorable court, thank you very much for this wise reminder. You see, I’m an ordinary person. I’m not a judge who has everything set up very logically and correctly. I was saying what I wanted to say about my sentence, to the best of my capacity for judgment. And my capacity for judgment is what determines what I say. I say it the way I can. You know the saying: “don’t shoot the pianist, he’s doing the best he can.” It’s the same here. It’s really important for me to say here and explain to the court that everything got broken, including the justice system, exactly for the purpose of starting these wars later. And these wars... In addition to the fact that weare certainly killing innocent people for reasons we do not understand, we are destroying the Russian people. As I said, the entire leadership of the National Guard in Vladimir Oblast, where I serve my term, is dead, four lieutenant colonels have died. You see, this is being concealed, but at the same time absolutely everyone knows about it. And why were they killed? Because one crazy man couldn’t leave Ukraine alone. It is not clear what he wants to do, I do not know what he wants to do with it. And this crazy thief hired an mentally ill man to command the National Guard, and these are not my words, by the way. These are the words of Korzhakov, the former head of the president’s security service, who, when characterizing Army General Zolotov, said: “I can’t call him a moron, because he’s an imbecile.” And when a thief hires an imbecile to wage war... Yes, they will kill a lot of people in this war, but they will all be killed themselves.
— Mr. navalny, I would like to hear your last word about the verdict of the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow. Once again, I urge you to return to the subject of the judicial review at this hearing.
— Your Honor, I don’t even need to be urged. I can’t return... The subject matter is literally this grid. And it’s either me grasping it, or it grasping me...
— Mr. Navalny, you are convicted under four felonies under part 4 of Article 159 and Article 297 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
— Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation will be repeatedly applied to those persons I am talking about. Along with all sorts of other articles. Because these people keep people like me in prison just to keep stealing, cheating, robbing, and killing, that’s why all this is happening, Your Honor. Look, speaking of Article 159, you might be interested in this. Since you’re asking me about Article 159. You know when I thought about it all the time? On May 9. On that day, the convicts were sitting in a room, very solemnly... They showed us the parade. And there was an Armata tank riding in the parade. And they told us again that the Armata tank is the best, and the Russian troops in general... I thought: it’s 2022, and I’m looking at the Armata tank. I was looking at the Armata tank in 2021, and in the twentieth, and in 2019, and in 2018, and in 2017, and in 2016. It seems to me that since 2015 we have been constantly shown the Armata tank. But at the war, for some reason I see mostly T-72 tanks and a few more modern ones, but no Armata. So, back to Article 159: maybe that’s because our commander-in-chief is a thief and a madman, our defense minister is a thief and a PR man...
— Mr. Navalny, on March 22, 2022, you were convicted by the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow for committing fraud and insulting the court. Please, I urge you to return to the subject of judicial review in the court of appeals. You have not yet given us a single specific reason for your disagreement with the final verdict of the Lefortovo District Court in Moscow. Your defense spoke very clearly, outlined all its arguments, and I would like to hear your position directly on the appealed judicial act.
— Your Honor, my lawyers are on the outside, so they speak very clearly, but I am just a convict behind bars, so I am not able to speak clearly. I’m speaking as clearly as I can, I’ve got a little bit left say, it’s just the important things. The important thing is that the verdict of the Lefortovo District Court was handed down in the name of the Russian Federation, and it was handed down the way it was because the power in the Russian Federation has been seized by those people who for years have been lying to us, in particular about weapon types, starting wars, killing other people and their own people, and have now made a bloodbath of Russians and Ukrainians. And as a consequence of all this, there will be a huge number of such trials, including trials against me, and I want them to stop. And if I can at least do something with my words to convince someone, to somehow make all this stop, I will say it.
I’m close to the end, don’t interrupt me any more. Honorable court, I look at you, and in your face I see the very “name of the Russian Federation”... Putin, Chemezov, Shoigu, all these Golikovs, Khristenkos, all the people we have investigated — all of them are in front of me represented by you. And I want to say one thing: we’d be so much better off without you! How wonderful it would be to live in our country without you, because for the first time in centuries we’d have no enemies, no war, everything would be fine, we’d have money, lots of oil, expensive gas, and Russia would be a beautiful and rich country without you. That’s why I would like you all to disappear and for the ideology of Russia... Ideology is a big word... I want the rules of our life to be “live and let the others live”. For everyone to leave everyone alone, for us to leave Ukraine and everyone else alone, for you judges to leave ordinary citizens alone, for the National Guard to do real things, for the Federal Penitentiary Service to really guard criminals and not political prisoners, for police to investigate crimes and not arrest people for likes, for you to be gone and for everyone to leave each other alone. Only then we will finally live well.
But for now, you are here. And, of course, the most pertinent quote from the most famous book regarding you, which is now in constant use, which has been used many times in the same situations many years before, is “now is your time and the power of darkness.” The curious thing is that right now I see in you, in your power, that you, in general, are not even affected by this. When you hear that phrase, you realize that you are the power of darkness and this is your time, but you’re not worried — on the contrary, it inspires you, you’re like: “Yes! We are the power of darkness, we are the coolest, this is our time.” And that’s your essence, you’re all villains, you understand that, and you revel in it. But my point is that your time will certainly not last forever and will eventually pass. And when you all burn in hell, the wood to your fire will be thrown by your grandfathers, who did not want you to use their portraits to wage new wars in the 21st century. I rest my case, thank you.